University of San Diego Takes on K-12 STEM Program

A private foundation is handing over a science, technology, engineering and math program while at the same time donating $12 million to the university's STEM initiatives.

by Gary Robbins, The San Diego Union-Tribune / January 29, 2016 0
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(TNS) — The University of San Diego (USD) is taking over a highly praised program that a private foundation created to cultivate an interest in the sciences among the nation's school children.

The campus was chosen for the job by the Noyce Foundation of Los Altos, which also is giving USD 12 million to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives in many communities, including San Diego.

The foundation — like many others — has been pushing STEM to improve literacy and prepare students for the explosive job growth that is occurring in some areas of science and technology.

The move represents a final act for Noyce, which is going out of business 25 years after it helped to pioneer STEM education in the U.S. The foundation was created in honor of the late Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel and co-creator of the integrated chip.

"It was always our plan to sunset the foundation," said Penny Noyce, one of Robert Noyce's daughters. "We chose USD because it is very nimble, its leadership is very entrepreneurial, and the campus understands how to promote science among kids."

The foundation also liked the fact that Ron Ottinger, the executive director of its STEM program, has strong ties to USD and the city of San Diego. Ottinger served 12 years on the San Diego Unified School District's Board of Education, including a stint as president. He also has collaborated on STEM projects for many years with Scott Himelstein, director of USD's Center for Education Policy and Law.

Ottinger will run the STEM initiative that's moving to USD from Noyce.

"We need to bring together school districts, business leaders and places like the Reuben E. Fleet Science Center to change the ecosystem in which students engage with science, technology, math and engineering," said Ottinger. "It's not just a matter of learning facts and lists. Students need to do real world projects."

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment in STEM-related fields will increase by 1 million during the decade ending in 2020. The demand for such workers varies by discipline. Experts say the number of jobs for mathematicians will increase by only 800. But the demand for software developers will rise by almost 83,000 while positions for civil engineers swells by 53,000.

©2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.