Preparing tomorrow’s innovators

Catherine Gelmini (left) and her robotics teammates take part in the FIRST® Tech Challenge in Canada

We believe every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full academic and professional potential.

Canadian Catherine Gelmini was 9 years old when she started FIRST® Robotics competitions. As a teen, her Dow-sponsored team, the Cyber Eagles, competed in the world championships three years in a row. Now, at 20, Gelmini is working at Dow’s Fort Saskatchewan facilities this summer while pursuing a career in science and education.

Her dream: to be a teacher and start her own robotics team.

“I would love for every student to have the opportunity to explore robotics and be more interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). I feel like there is a fear of not being smart enough or technically competent enough to be a part of a robotics team but that couldn't be farther from the truth,” she said. “Robotics isn't just about building a robot. It’s about creating connections, learning new skills and having fun while competing.”

Each year, on World Skills Day in July, we come together to focus attention on the increasing importance of equipping young people with the technical and people skills needed for careers in an ever-changing world. Unfortunately, unlike Catherine, not all youth have the opportunity to experiment with STEM early in life, or access to educational programs needed to pursue their dreams. Globally, one in five young people are not in employment, education or training programs, according to the International Labour Organization. Three out of four of these young people are women.

To close this gap, companies like Dow can and should play an important role in helping young people understand the opportunities and positive impact that science and technology can have on society. It’s vital to our business and vital to our world. We need diverse people who understand how to effectively use technology and problem-solve to fill the talent pipeline. More important, we need their passion, skills and creativity in order to address pervasive global issues such as climate change, resource inequality and disease prevention.

Dow’s Global Citizenship program’s focus on STEM is two-fold: to inspire and prepare the next generation of diverse manufacturers, engineers and chemists, and to foster innovative mindsets and the creativity of our future workforce. Here are examples of the approaches we’re taking across the globe.

We’re helping show how STEM skills connect to real-life issues. In China, we’ve partnered with Junior Achievement to teach students ages 10-11 about sustainable urbanization. Initiated in 2007, the “Our City” program spans 12 weeks and teaches students basic concepts of sustainability and the circular economy. Despite COVID-19, the program reached 36,054 primary students and 827 teachers in 22 cities in 2020.

We’re empowering educators. In Algeria, we partnered with World Learning to establish a first-of-its-kind STEM Center in 2015. As part of the program, teachers and mentors from across the nation completed an intensive 16-session STEM teaching methodology course and started hosting student workshops at the center in 2020. The training emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach in which rigorous academic concepts are coupled with hands-on innovation.

We’re engaging Team Dow. Our employees are passionate about STEM and are providing positive role models to help ignite student interest in these subjects. In Dow communities across the world, hundreds of trained employees are volunteering to work with students through programs such as FIRST® Robotics. In Mexico City, senior marketing manager Andre Posada worked with the WinT3794 FIRST® Robotics team to conquer the challenges of COVID-19 in 2020. Using Dow polyurethane foam and silicones, Posada helped the team produce face shields that were donated to local businesses.

We believe every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full academic and professional potential. As Catherine’s experience shows us, investing in STEM programs can have a big impact on a child’s future. It can also have a significant impact on society and what our future holds. As the name implies, STEM can be the foundation for the blossoming and growth of our youth, and the ideas we need to change our world.

To learn more about how we’re developing tomorrow’s innovators, visit our 2020 ESG Report.