Sept. 4, 2012 08:13 PM
Adding the arts to the traditional STEM curriculum will enrich Lafayette's future workforce. The acronym "STEM" is probably something you have heard repeatedly over the past 10 years, and with the continual growth of advanced technologies, it is likely that you will hear the term more.
                                       LITE CEO Dr. Kam Ng

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and the term is becoming a household word. So what exactly does STEM mean, and how does it impact you? STEM involves inspiring school age children with science, technology, engineering and mathematics and packaging them into exciting and engaging activities beyond school curricula. The desired outcome is to not only create a workforce that can fill those STEM positions in the future, but to encourage science and technology and to promote innovations and economic growth. Though it may sound like a cliché, the children really are our future. They are your future employees, leaders, innovators and educators.

There are many organizations that have taken the lead in creating STEM programs throughout the U.S. Prior to accepting the position of chief executive officer for Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, I was serving as the deputy director of research for the Office of Naval Research. I worked as the leader in STEM development for the Navy not only because it is a passion of mine, but also because I see the need to give our children a better opportunity to secure jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Our mission at LITE is to nurture economic development through innovation, and we make that possible by utilizing our immersive and digital media technologies, and by fostering partnerships that strengthen Louisiana's economy. As LITE continues to develop innovative technologies with our government, business and academic partners, we also know that nurturing a strong STEM program is a must for our outreach efforts, and something that we have made a top priority.

LITE is supporting STEM education and outreach. Our STEM activities include digital tutoring and learning, visualization using video games and immersive technologies. In immersive technology, for example, we create a virtual environment using our six-sided virtual reality CAVE (cave automatic virtual environment) to allow them to "fly" through the human body. We inspire our youngsters to engage in digital media and immersive technologies - and we want them to have the opportunity to use our technologies to do so.

Programs such as these don't happen without collaboration, and to push LITE's STEM efforts effectively, we are having discussions with Dr. Pat Cooper at the Lafayette Parish School System to ensure that a true partnership between LPSS and LITE is developed. Working together with Cooper, UL Lafayette, FiberCorps and the U.S. Ignite efforts, local business owners and other organizations, we will bring STEM to the Lafayette community. Because of Acadiana's rich culture in art, LITE will work on ways to move our students from current STEM programs to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics). Adding the visual component to Lafayette's STEM efforts will be imperative in the outreach of our students, and LITE's experience in 3D animation will be a great way to link it all together.

So how is this going to happen? Key collaborators are already having discussions to pull together the resources Lafayette has to offer. In addition, LITE has already begun work to bring some of the most successful STEM programs from the U.S. Navy to Lafayette. SeaPerch is a program we are working on that provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics while building an underwater remote-operated vehicle.

We also have plans to introduce LPSS to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, which inspires students to have STEM careers, and Botball, which brings the fun of competition to science and technology. Being able to tap into the resources that the U.S. Navy has created to engage our students will be a great success for our current and future students. We have the ability to give them access to the applications proven to create innovation.

Furthermore, we plan to bring the digital tutor and learning programs to LPSS to help the students advance their academic work in mathematics and science. The Gooru Learning Organization, under Navy funding, has developed many web-based digital learning modules for high school mathematics and science.

Lafayette is not the only community looking at ways to incorporate these initiatives into our school systems. According to Tom Friedman's editorial in The New York Times titled Average is Over, Part II, "Globalization and the Internet/telecom/computing revolution together challenge every town, worker and job. There is no good job today that does not require more and better education to get it, hold it or advance in it."

Based on international testing scores, the United States is considered "average," and to continue to be able to compete in today's global market we have to be better than average. We have to be great.
Lafayette is an amazing community that has resources capable of accomplishing anything, and I am excited to join forces with a community of its caliber. LITE is prepared to join forces with our educators to ensure that our children now and in the future are given the STEAM they need to be successful for themselves and their community.

Dr. Kam Ng (pronounced ing) is CEO of LITE. He most recently was deputy director of research for the Office of Naval Research and holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics from the University of Rhode Island and an MBA from Marymount University. For more information on LITE, visit www; send questions regarding LITE and its STEAM plans to

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