Energizing the future of STEM

Two students use a tablet as part of a Dow supported STEM event

Jan 20, 2023 | Paul Kline

I’m excited to see what the future holds for these students. I know they will be essential for a more sustainable, inclusive and innovative future for our world.


As a parent to three children in their 20s, I've tried to guide them towards activities they are passionate about so they can better understand themselves, know how they find joy and choose rewarding careers.

I am forever grateful that my children found FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an inclusive robotics community that inspires young people. The team-based robotics programs for ages 4-18 (PreK-12) are supported by a global system of volunteers, educators and sponsors like Dow. Teams operate to conduct research, fundraise, design, build and showcase their achievements during annual challenges that rival the excitement of any sporting event I’ve attended.

As a parent, team mentor and the Dow Executive Sponsor for our Global Citizenship partnership with FIRST, I've witnessed firsthand this project-based approach to learning. There is no doubt kids are having fun while learning essential STEM skills through FIRST, but what's more important is that they're learning how to learn – a crucial mindset, considering many careers they will pursue don't exist yet.

However, what's even more compelling is the global community that FIRST has created.

#MoreThanRobots

The FIRST community embodies inclusion, diversity, equity and belonging. As a Senior Global IT Director, I am accustomed to guiding teams to innovative solutions. When working together to solve problems, the best teams embrace diverse experiences. This builds self-confidence and a sense of inclusion and belonging, which are essential to success within Dow and FIRST.

As a Company that values Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ID&E), we are proud to make that an essential aspect of our partnership with FIRST. ID&E is embedded in our international grants and composes an important piece of the total grant Dow offers to FIRST teams in our communities. We also incentivize our teams to reflect on how they can be more diverse and engage in their community - 55% of our supported teams this season are helping make their programs more diverse and inclusive.

For example, one of our Dow-supported teams, the Space Cookies from California, focuses on menstrual equity. The team engaged more than 80 teams as ambassadors to provide free menstrual products at more than 100 competitions. By ensuring coverage at events worldwide, the team is moving toward its goal of ensuring no one in the FIRST community faces anxiety, exclusion, or stigma because they are menstruating.

#OMGrobots!

The robots are the vehicle this community uses to instill the philosophies of Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® and the results are OUTSTANDING! FIRST’s longitudinal study* shows that FIRST is impacting the development of tomorrow’s innovators. FIRST students and alumni have the following outcomes:

90 percent in communication skills, 93 percent in conflict resolution, 94 percent in problem-solving skills, 81 percent of FIRST alumni declare majors in STEM by their fourth year in college compared to 68 percent of their peers, FIRST female alumni are four times more likely to take engineering courses when compared to their peers

And one of the most impactful aspects of our partnership is that most Dow-supported teams include an employee volunteer who mentors the team and provides valuable hours of support to help students succeed.

Dow employee mentor helps FIRST LEGO League Explore students build a LEGO wind turbine at the Fort Saskatchewan Boys and Girls Club in Alberta, Canada.
Dan Thompson, an electrical engineer on Dow's Fort Saskatchewan Path2Zero project and employee mentor, helps FIRST® LEGO® League Explore students build a LEGO® wind turbine at the Boys and Girls Club in Alberta, Canada.

Through Dow’s support, we have:

  • 341 Dow employees volunteering with FIRST
  • Reached approximately 2,300 students directly through Team Grants
  • Supported students in 18 countries through team and international grants

#SustainableFuture

Each year, FIRST chooses a new theme for the annual challenges. This year’s theme, FIRST ENERGIZE℠, is about reimagining the future of sustainable energy and power. I couldn’t think of a better group to tackle this challenge. I’m excited to see what the future holds for these students. I know they will be essential for a more sustainable, inclusive and innovative future for our world.
 

Paul Kline, Senior Global IT Director