September 2019 Newsletter

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 Building Omaha’s Future Leaders

September 2019

Celebrating STEM in Omaha

A STEM Professional You Should Know!

Derrick Nero

Derrick Nero, Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Education (UNO COE), never expected to become a teacher. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Orleans, he worked as an engineer and project manager for three different firms, but two experiences from his undergrad years stuck with him: his love for tutoring other students and the isolation he felt due to the lack of racial diversity in his classes. After realizing that his true passion was working with underrepresented and at-risk students and bringing the excitement of engineering into their classrooms, Nero earned a Master’s degree in Special Education from UNO. He worked in alternative and general education for 11 years at Lewis & Clark Middle School, where he created and taught a STEM elective course for nine years and implemented the use of robotics as an educational platform. Nero was then recruited into higher education, receiving his Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a focus on STEM Education. He now teaches and develops teacher education courses for undergraduate teacher candidates and engineering education courses for graduate candidates, along with serving as faculty advisor to various STEM outreach initiatives such as Space Celebration Night and student groups such as Latinos in STEM, National Society of Black Engineers and Noyce Math Scholars. Nero never expected to become an educator, but found that having personal support and access to resources, such as UNO’s Teacher Academy Project (which allowed him to pursue a Master’s in Education without needing to first earn a Bachelor’s in the field) gave him the confidence and tools to pursue a more fulfilling career. Since career exploration opportunities were essential for his journey as an educator, he hopes to provide this same guidance to underserved students in the community for many years to come.

Bridging the Gap in the STEM Workforce: A Community Conversation Highlights  

Thank you to everyone that was able to attend the Bridging the Gap in the STEM Workforce event on the 27th at Gallup! We have received so many wonderful comments and suggestions and are so excited to get to work on the “Ignite Pitch.” A huge thank you to Jim Collison for a great job at facilitating the conversation and to Gallup for hosting. If you couldn’t make it to the event, check out some brief highlights below.

  • Jim Collison opened the evening’s conversation by recapping the work accomplished at the STEM Skills Gap event (April 23rd).  Following that event, the PD Committee reviewed all the comments, developed a position statement around the 3 top skills that educators, businesses, science centers, museums and non-profits identified as key to workforce success.
    • The Omaha community came together with a common goal to bridge the gap between STEM workforce and education.  Over 70 community members spanning 40 different organizations worked together to identify critical skills for 21st century jobs.  They acknowledged the importance of multiple frameworks for critical skills, such as the Nebraska Standards for Career Readiness.  The following skills were deemed the most critical to the needs of the community:
      • Problem Solving Skills
      • Effective Communication
      • Collaboration Skills
  • Over 65 community partners shared their ideas and helped clarify the educator/business survey. The purpose of the survey was to develop a template of information as we look to connect businesses and educators together.  Please feel free to send your comments on the surveys.
  • As mentioned above, the Committee was piloting a  unique way based on the Ted Talk style (4 – 6 min.), that educators and businesses can ‘pitch’ what they do best, where they need support, etc.  As we continue to modify the pitch format, we will be using it at several events in the future.  The October 3rd Summit will be the next opportunity to “pitch” what your school or business can offer in helping Omaha build a STEM workforce.

Mark Your Calendars!

Math with Gerrymandering: October 26 from 9:00 am – 11:30 am

In this awesome partnership with UNO we’re tackling the history, neutrality, fairness and alternative process of gerrymandering with hands-on activities to take back to your classroom. The event will be at UNO Roskens Hall/Atrium. Click here to RSVP!


Omaha Science Cafe: iEXCEL  October 15 from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Christine Allmon is the Program Manager of the augmented and virtual reality at iEXCEL UNMC, and Michael Hollins is the Director of community and business engagement at iEXCEL. Together they will discuss iEXCEL at the Oct. 15 Omaha Science Café at 7 p.m. at the Slowdown. Science Cafés involve a face-to-face conversation with a scientist about current science topics. They are open to everyone 21 and older. Each meeting is organized around an interesting topic of conversation. A scientist gives a brief presentation followed by a Q-and-A period. Pizza will be provided for the first 50 people by the Nebraska Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. To learn more about Michael and Christine, head to the calendar of events. 


Wow! That’s Engineering Workshop: October 12 from 8:30 am – 3:00 pm

Save the date for a great event encouraging girls to pursue careers in engineering and technology! The workshop will be at UNO’s PKI Institute and is for students ranging from third to twelfth grade. The day will include activities related to mechanical, civil, chemical and systems engineering. To learn more about the event as it approaches, go to


Stay tuned for our October newsletter!

We want you to be a part of the conversation about how to find solutions for addressing the shortfall of STEM professionals in the Omaha community. To collaborate with innovators, educators, researchers and leaders of tomorrow, join the Omaha STEM Ecosystem today at

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