Speaker: R.I. needs high school focus

RHODE ISLAND needs to focus its work force development plans on the state’s high schools instead of on higher education order to redefine its economy, a local educator said at RIC’s “EmpoweRIng for the Future” Conference on Friday.
Posted 5/4/12

PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island needs to focus its work force development plans on the state’s high schools instead of on higher education order to redefine its economy, a local educator said at Rhode Island College’s RI STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) “EmpoweRIng for the Future” Conference on Friday.

“We know that 12 year olds can hack into a bank [website]. Why are we persisting in our belief that we can’t teach high school kids to program,” said Lou Mazzucchelli, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s school of engineering and director of the Slater Technology Fund Fellows Program.

“[We need to] make the Rhode Island high school diploma meaningful…for a future Rhode Island workplace,” added Mazzucchelli.

He also told the audience, which was comprised mostly of educators from area secondary school systems and higher education institutions, that economic development is dependent on creating out-of-state demand for goods and services and investing in lifestyle businesses – those that will stay in the state with perhaps limited growth – rather than start-ups that potentially could either fail or move elsewhere once successful.

“Hope is not enough,” Mazzucchelli said. “[We need to] think big in design, think seven generations ahead and not settle for mediocrity.”

The RI STEM Conference held at RIC’s Providence campus also included panels and workshops that centered project-based learning, forming partnerships and business needs.

RIC’s STEM Center opened in 2009 and has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Through collaborations with other colleges, universities, and educators for grades pre-kindergarten through high school, it seeks to recruit, prepare, and develop STEM teachers and professionals.

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