April 2018 Newsletter

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Building Omaha’s Future Leaders
April 2018

Celebrating STEM in Omaha 


A STEM Professional You Should Know!
Griff Elder PhD, Professor of Mathematics at UNO

Since 1999, math students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) have been partaking in a nationwide test of mathematical might called the Putnam Competition.

The Putnam Competition is an annual exam taken by the top mathematics students in the United States and Canada. Questions are drawn from calculus, theory of equations, differential equations, and geometry. Over 450 universities and 4,500 students participate.

“At UNO, we generally do pretty well,” said Griff Elder, professor of mathematics at UNO.

Elder is responsible for choosing the students that will make up UNO’s team. Three students from each school take the exam separately and their scores are added up to make a team score. If a student wants to take the exam individually to see where he or she stacks up against the nation’s best, they have that option as well.

UNO’s team finishes in the top 15 to 20 percentiles on average. In 2013, UNO was in the ninth percentile.

“If you’re thinking of studying mathematics somewhere in this country you might not think of going to UNO, but that said, we do pretty well, and our students do pretty well,” Elder said.

“Just like we all enjoy a good novel, and you can lose yourself in a good novel and really enjoy it, similarly, you can lose yourself in a good math problem and really enjoy it,”

Elder took the Putnam competition when he was an undergraduate student and he wanted to provide that opportunity to students at UNO.

“UNO is in the midst of a mathematical surge, and it shows with our graduates. Recent students have headed to schools like Cornell for a Ph.D. and have accepted jobs at Google and the like.”


What a Fascinating Evening Showcasing Endless
Virtual Possibilities!

Pathways to Emerging Technology: Virtual Reality in the Workplace, Today and Tomorrow” was a success!

The Omaha STEM Ecosystem, in partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, held an event at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium on March 27. The panel discussion opened the evening with leading virtual reality industry experts discussing current VR practices in the workplace, as well as predictions for how the field will evolve in the future. The panel participants included:

  • Sean Johnson – Senior Director, Business Workforce at Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce
  • Ed Vidlak –Vice President and Principal, Director of Education for Greater Omaha Area at HDR
  • Pamela Boyers – Ph.D. , Associate Vice Chancellor at University of NE Medical Center/IEXCEL
  • Mukul Mukherjee – Ph.D., Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska at Omaha Biomechanics Research Building
  • Doug Derrick – Ph.D., Associate Professor, Director of the Applied Innovation Lab at the Peter Kiewit Institute and the University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Kerry Kelley Senior Executive Service, Chief Information Officer and Director, Joint Cyber Center at USSTRATCOM

With over 125 attendees, this was the largest STEM Ecosystem event to date. This topic resonated with the audience.

One of the take-away moments for several folks was around the comment Dr. Boyers said, “Virtual Reality in the workplace originated with the gaming industry.”

This was a total surprise to many and lead to a call to action – how do we utilize the gaming culture as a tool to develop the necessary skills students need for careers in the future VR technology and supportive content.

In addition to the panel discussion, HDR, UNMC/IEXCEL and UNO Biomechanics Research Building had provided opportunities for guests to experience the virtual reality technology for themselves.  This was a big hit!

Moving forward, the STEM Ecosystem will capture that excitement through facilitating smaller venues and discussions around developing pathways for students in the virtual reality technology.



2018 National Community of Practice, in Collaboration with U.S. News Stems Solutions, Presents the Workforce of Tomorrow Conference

The conference brought an in-depth look at the future of the workforce specifically skills, jobs, and the “new collar” economy.

Speakers included education, industry, and other sectors. These pioneers have strong track records of innovation and achievement in advancing STEM education and workforce development, and they share a firm commitment to developing a blueprint for the future workforce.

Omaha STEM Ecosystem Steering Committee members Karlus Cozart, Victoria Novak, Chris Schaben, and Julie Sigmon (Director) generated numerous relationships with other S.F.N. Ecosytem members, and gathered new ideas to incorporate within the Omaha community. Julie Sigmon also presented at a breakout session focusing on understanding and filling the jobs of the future in order to develop effective partnerships, policy, and spurring innovation in education.


Math with a Computer Scientist 

We were very excited that all 30 of you could join us for Math with a Computer Scientist!

The gathering brought math concepts into the real world and the classroom, as well as creating works of art using the power of the computer.

Computer science professors shared innovative ways to add computer science to math, science, and art curriculum, and also discussed professional development opportunities.


The Omaha Bio Innovation Event

Image: Dr. Christine Reed introduces Mikhail Davis to the participants in the bio-innovation workshop

The Omaha Bio Innovation Event Brought Urban Sustainability
to the ForeFront. 

Mikhail Davis spoke to a group of business partners and educators on sustainability and restorative business strategy, innovation, nature-inspired design, transparency and healthy materials, industrial ecology, closed loop production systems, and organizational change.

Image: Mikhail Davis converses with Zoo Academy students

While in Omaha, Davis also visited with the Zoo Academy students on the importance of sustainability programs and bio-mimicry design, and the possible career paths in this field.

Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming STEM Events

Block Chain: Lets Get Real
May 4
For more information: https://www.omahachamber.org/blockchain/

UNO Public Planetarium Shows 
May – June
See our Facebook Event for dates

Keep Omaha Beautiful Spring Cleanup 
May 5th, 12th, and 23rd
For more information: http://omahastem.com/keep-omaha-beautiful-spring-cleanup/

Family Nature Club 
May 5th and 19th
For more information: http://www.omahazoo.com/join-a-club

The 2018 CodeCrush Summit
June 12-13
For more information: https://codecrush.unomaha.edu/summit

Nebraska GenCyber Camp
June 18-29 (teachers) and June 25-29 (students)
For more information: https://www.nebraskagencyber.com/

UNO IS&T High School Internships
July 4-27
For more information: https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-information-science-and-technology/engagement/high-school-internship-program.php

CSTA 2018 Annual Conference
July 7-10
For more information: http://www.csteachers.org/page/2018Conference




Makeover Propels Math Classroom Into the Future


ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — Working on an absolute maximum problem, Anderson High School junior Jai Jackson writes 4x-7=0 on the dry-erase table as seniors Siraj Elbey and Marissa Merritt wait.

Welcome to the classroom of the future, where students can work their equations directly on their tables, on the doors of the storage closets and even on the floor. They can sit on the backs of chairs, on cushions on the floor or in bean bags.

“I think I’ve sat here the whole entire year at this table,” said Jackson, 16.

Installed in pieces since the summer, the classroom is one example of the ways schools are accommodating the learning comfort of students.

Elbey, 18, says the new set-up in Richard Ziuchkovski’s calculus class makes him want to do his classwork.

“When I’m at ease more, I feel more comfortable to do work,” he said. “I can concentrate better, too.”

The wall-to-wall experiment was assembled at the suggestion of Erin Jennings, interior designer and graduate architect at Anderson-based krM Architecture. The firm historically has done quite a bit of work for Anderson Community Schools, she said.

Nearly half of all US college students drop out. This startup wants to fix that.

Underwater Robotics Curriculum

We want to celebrate STEM professionals in the Greater Omaha area. Do you know of someone who has an awesome job using STEM application in their everyday work? We would love to highlight them in our next newsletter. Contact Julie Sigmon at: julie.sigmon@omahazoo.com.



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