Pa. school to launch STEM initiative with LANL help

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Speaking at the 2011 Pittsburgh STEM Summit, Nick Trombetta, CEO of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter school, will discuss his school’s plans to launch a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative in the Pittsburgh area.
Trombetta is head of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. He and three other leading educators are to discuss regional efforts to improve science and math education for grades K-12. The STEM Summit was held Wednesday.
The ultimate aim of PA Cyber’s STEM initiative is to locate centers throughout Pennsylvania “where our students can go and immerse themselves in science and technology,” said Dr. Trombetta. “These centers would create STEM curriculum and activities for the state and nation that are effective, affordable and accessible.”
A pilot project for the STEM initiative will open this year in the Pittsburgh area at Baden, Pa., he said.
Trombetta said the online school has already committed significant resources for programs and curricula designed for young people interested in science or technical careers. A new “school of engineering” within PA Cyber is currently enrolling its first class of high school freshmen. Full-credit high school courses were added this fall in robotics, biometrics and advanced placement biology.
“The President has stated that retaining world leadership in science and technology is a matter of American national security,” said Dr. Trombetta. “Our school is uniquely positioned and structured to make a positive impact in STEM education. We have been pioneers in online education. Our 11,000 students are first-generation digital learners and our staff comprises the largest single online education workforce in the nation.”
PA Cyber’s 250 online courses include a wide menu of basic and advanced math, science and technical courses, many of them not found in traditional school districts. An original series called Cutting Edge Science includes courses in emerging genetics, forensic science, biofuels and engineering land speed vehicles.
“We have a direct relationship with scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratories who have helped us to create some of these Cutting Edge Science courses, and more are on the way. Our students regularly interact online with the Los Alamos scientists through our Cutting Edge Science Club,” said Dr. Trombetta. “The people at Los Alamos are passionate about what they do, and they communicate their love of science to our students.
“Our friends at Los Alamos have made it clear they are collaborating with PA Cyber to help develop the next generation of working scientists.”
The mission of the PA Cyber STEM education initiative includes encouraging more participation by minority populations and females - groups traditionally underrepresented in scientific fields, said Trombetta.