Asteroid, discovered yesterday, swept past

By Gianluca Masi in SPACE | November 2, 2016

Astronomers discovered asteroid 2016 VA on November 1, 2016, just hours before it passed within 0.2 times the moon’s distance of Earth.

The near-Earth asteroid 2016 VA was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Sky Survey in Arizona (USA) on 1 Nov. 2016 and announced later the same day by the Minor Planet Center. The object was going to have a very close encounter with the Earth, at 0.2 times the moon’s distance – about 75,000 km [46,000 miles]. At Virtual Telescope Project we grabbed extremely spectacular images and a unique video showing the asteroid eclipsed by the Earth.

The image above is a 60-seconds exposure, remotely taken with “Elena” (PlaneWave 17?+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E robotic unit) available at Virtual Telescope. The robotic mount tracked the extremely fast (570″/minute) apparent motion of the asteroid, so stars are trailing. The asteroid is perfectly tracked: it is the sharp dot in the center, marked with two white segments. At the imaging time, asteroid 2016 VA was at about 200,000 km [124,000 miles] from us and approaching. Its diameter should be around 12 meters or so.

During its fly-by, asteroid 2016 VA was also eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow. We covered the spectacular event, clearly capturing also the penumbra effects.

The movie below is an amazing document showing the eclipse. Each frame comes from a 5-seconds integration.

Asteroid 2016 VA eclipsed by Earth’s shadow. Image via Virtual Telescope Project.

The eclipse started around 23:23:56 UT and ended about at 23:34:46. To our knowledge, this is the first video ever of a complete eclipse of an asteroid. Some hot pixels are visible on the image. At the eclipse time, the asteroid was moving with an apparent motion of 1500″/minutes and it was at about 120,000 km [75,000 miles] from the Earth, on its approaching route. You can see here a simulation of the eclipse as if you were on the asteroid.

Click here to see this article at the Virtual Telescope Project

Help support The Virtual Telescope Project!

Bottom line: An asteroid called 2016 VA was discovered on November 1, 2016 and passed closest to Earth – within 0.2 times the moon’s distance – a few hours later. Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project caught images of the asteroid as it swept by.


Benedictine University professor’s egg research hatches new discoveries on environmental change

LISLE, Ill.Nov. 30, 2015 — Eggs. We eat them, decorate them and collect them.

But what if we could use eggs to go “back to the future” and find out what happened in the past that has affected and possibly is still affecting our current and future environment?

Monica Tischler, Ph.D., professor of Biology at Benedictine University, has solved this time paradox in a way that fully preserves historical artifacts. Except she didn’t use a specially fitted DeLorean. She used X-rays.

But it wasn’t just any ordinary X-rays. It was X-rays from one of the world’s most powerful sources – the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. Tischler is one of many researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) $467 million X-ray machine. The DOE reports that scientists from around the world go to Argonne to conduct potentially groundbreaking research.

The renowned laboratory is only a few miles from Benedictine, allowing Tischler the opportunity to break new ground without breaking the treasured, rare eggs she used to assess past environmental living conditions of native animals from across the United States.

An osprey egg being tested by Monica Tischler, Ph.D., professor of Biology at Benedictine University, during research conducted at Argonne National...
An osprey egg being tested by Monica Tischler, Ph.D., professor of Biology at Benedictine University, during research conducted at Argonne National…

Typically, researchers have to destroy their egg specimens by crushing them into fine particles so they can more easily examine the material. Doing so gives researchers a window into changes in the environment that can possibly predict future environmental changes including some that could prove hazardous to the Earth, as well as animal and human life.

Tischler first began theorizing in 2012 whether egg specimens could be analyzed using X-rays. She had access to thousands of egg specimens the late Benedictine professors Frs. Hilary and Edmund Jurica, O.S.B., had amassed over a period of decades. Those specimens are now part of the University’s Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum, which boasts a collection of more than 50,000 plants and creatures ranging from butterflies, beetles and spiders to a whale skeleton.

Monica Tischler, Ph.D., professor of Biology at Benedictine University, discusses the alignment of a sample during research using the Advanced Photon...
Monica Tischler, Ph.D., professor of Biology at Benedictine University, discusses the alignment of a sample during research using the Advanced Photon…

“We have eggs dating back 150 years,” Tischler said. “Before binoculars were invented and made bird-watching popular, many people collected bird eggs. Then when migratory bird acts were instituted in the late 19th century and made the practice of collecting eggs unfashionable and illegal, many collections were donated to museums.

Tischler, who worked closely with Fr. Theodore Suchy, O.S.B, who served as the University’s museum curator for more than 40 years, was partly inspired by the monk’s dedication to preserving the collection for future generations.

“Fr. Ted’s contribution was to take that teaching collection and make it into a museum for the public and the University,” Tischler said.

Now she has taken the use of the collection a step further.

“The next step would be to take this incredible collection and see what we can use for research,” she added. “I felt that is where my contribution could lie. While a microbiologist by training, I have a strong background in environmental research and toxicology.”

She wrote a proposal asking Argonne if she could use its advanced X-ray equipment to detect metals and inorganic pollutants in bird eggs. Argonne approved her request and in 2013, Tischler and her research team began detecting some pollutants using the X-ray beam.

But why eggs? And what does finding pollutants in the eggs really mean?

“When birds lay eggs, they excrete contaminants into the egg, and the contaminants in the eggshell reflect blood concentrates of those contaminants,” Tischler said. “These specimens represent a window into the past. The problem is that up until this research, all the techniques used to identify the contaminant in an eggshell were destructive. You take the eggshell, crush it, dissolve it in acid and examine it. It would be unfathomable to destroy these rare eggs for research.”

Using the Advanced Photon Source, Tischler designed a method to examine changes in an ecosystem by looking at these rare egg collections without damaging them. She tested the methodology with chicken eggs first to make sure X-rays would not damage the eggs.

The machine uses an electron storage ring that produces hard X-rays. The X-rays cause the elements to fluoresce, and analyzing the fluorescence allows the researchers to determine which elements are present. Researchers identified within the eggs naturally occurring elements such as calcium, iron and zinc, but also elements such as manganese, arsenic, bromine and lead, which can be considered contaminants.

Researchers examined the eggs of a variety of birds including eagles, ospreys, pied-billed grebes, common terns and peregrine falcons. Curiously, not all eggs (grebes, terns) taken from the same period and geographical location showed contaminants.

“With the eagle and osprey eggs, we could detect quite a bit of contaminants,” Tischler said. “My conclusion is my technique does not work on specimens that are lower on the food chain. It’s based upon what they eat.”

To prove her hypothesis, Tischler submitted a second proposal approved by Argonne to test a new set of eggs in order to ascertain whether the presence or absence of contaminants is related to the type of bird or its environment.

In the examination of eagle and osprey eggs from approximately the same era (circa mid-1910s), researchers found levels of arsenic and lead in addition to iron and zinc.

“You see the same contaminants in both types of bird, so it’s the environment – not the bird,” Tischler said. “The same species at the same time from different watersheds were exposed to different contaminants and we can show this. It’s a new technique to gain a window into the past to compare watersheds and compare contaminants over time.”

Benedictine undergraduate and graduate students were engaged in the research process, which developed a following on Snapchat. Student researchers helped switch out samples, operated the equipment and recorded results. This type of hands-on research has become commonplace for Benedictine students pursuing careers in the sciences.

Tischler plans to submit a manuscript with full results for publication in a scientific journal in the near future.

The College of Science at Benedictine University provides unique opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in research projects on campus, and internships through its ties to the regional science community, which includes Argonne, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Field Museum of Natural History. This experience allows students to gain expertise in a laboratory setting, connecting their classroom work to real-world applications.

For nearly a century, the science faculty at Benedictine has prepared its students to lead lives of meaning, purpose and distinction. Empowered by a values-centered Benedictine science education that emphasizes hands-on scientific exploration and discovery, alumni have gone on to realize their professional potential, build stellar careers and bring their talents to bear on society’s most pressing needs.

SOURCE  Benedictine University

Do Plumbers STEM?

An answer to a question posed by a colleague a few months ago on whether plumbers should be included in the STEM circle sprang alive this morning, when being schooled on the finer workings of a zoned hydronic heating system at home during a repair.

Spoiler alert – this story is coming to you from a physicist STEM-ite who is steeped in a regard for the interdisciplinarity and inclusiveness necessary in solving complex problems.

A natural gas-fired boiler is the secondary heart to a parallel electric boiler zoned hydronic heating system that warms our home in western Minnesota. Hydronic systems cycle hot water via pumps to radiators located throughout the house, heating by radiation coupled with natural convection air currents, versus forced air systems that BLOW the warm air into the rooms. We’ve always advocated for the hydronic systems which do not seem to dry the air as much, and are quieter, any knockings being romanticized by apartments from earlier years while in graduate school. Actually, its the sounded knockings that had been lingering for a couple years that complemented the need for the schoolings.

Hydronic systems are closed systems, in this case the pump circulating water estimated as 25 gallons, with a reservoir tank located above the system which allows separators in the boiler workings to loft any air that accumulates in the system, whether from summer condensations in a dormant system, or from an injection of turbulent water that might be coupled to an inlet that allows the user to top off the water level.

Water levels (volume), temperature, and system pressure are coupled in a closed hydronic system, a relationship we teach our students for ideal gases in introductory science courses. It should be well known that when materials are heated they expand, whether water, steel/iron, or copper, water being the most expansive of the three for the applicable temperature and pressure ranges. What might not be evident is that under certain conditions the expansion of the water could generate an almost irresistible force and exert an enormous pressure if expansion is prevented, a dangerous situation indeed.

Water expansion is parameterized experimentally by a coefficient of cubic expansion, represented by the greek letter Beta, β, below I have tabulated using data from the Enginnering Toolbox:


Heating 25 gallons (94.6 liters) or 0.0946 m3 of water from 20oC to 80oC in a closed hydronic system will result in an expansion dV=V0β(T1-T0) = 0.0946*0.000424(80-20)=0.00241 m3, that is the warming will expand the volume by 0.638 gallons (inviting you to flex your math muscles to verify the conversions, noting 1 gallon = 3.785 Liters, 1 mL = 1000 cm3, 1 m = 100 cm, 1 m3 = 1,000,000 cm3).

The dual fuel system was noted earlier because gas burns hotter than electric elements in heating water where extremes of volume and pressure seemed to be correlated over the past few years; think investigation or detective story. What I had been seeing was as the water warmed to near maximum, the pressure would increase wildly. Evidently the standard is 5 psi, I was seeing 15. When explaining that to my plumber friend (Gary at G&T Plumbing and Heating, Fargo) he quickly declared that my expansion tank was 2015-10-06-12.18.52-1160x870waterlogged, translating that there was no room for expansion (air is compressible, water not nearly as much) providing motivation to review the situational interdisciplinarity, artfully.

Okay, a plumber could forgo the calculations, the graphs and use look up tables, but somehow, whether in a transfer of knowledge from a master craftsman to journeyman to apprentice, an ill informed plumber not having the experience and intelligence to design, build, and maintain common-place hydronic systems would likely not be plumbing for long.

I contend that plumbers, electricians, and the lot of tradesman are a significant component of a STEM workforce, specifically when addressing new situations, adapting experiences to solve problems while delivering services. Moreover for large building projects the multiple trade disciplines need to stage and coordinate their efforts respecting other disciplines, something we suggest should happen when building solutions, and betting some of you never questioning the implicit STEM nature of the trades.

The John Peel Lecture with Brian Eno

The annual John Peel Lecture invites a notable figure from the music industry to shape a debate and create insight around music and music-related media. Taking its inspiration from one of the greatest radio broadcasters of all time, and a figure who perpetually challenged the status quo, the John Peel Lecture has been a part of the Radio Festival since 2011. [Listen in popup window]

This year’s John Peel Lecture will examine the ecology of culture. Brian Eno will seek to demonstrate how the whole complex of individuals and institutions engaged in culture – artists, broadcasters, gallerists, promoters, DJs, managers, lawyers, fans – are symbiotically connected parts of a single huge organism which we call Culture. He will outline some of his thinking on this very unpredictable ecology and explore the interconnective relationships between the elements and components that combine to create our culture, and show how cultural processes confer essential and important benefits on society.

Brian Eno joins a list of high profile speakers who have delivered the John Peel Lecture. These are The Who’s Pete Townshend in 2011, who explored the implications of digital music media in an age of free downloads and a disposable attitude to music; Billy Bragg in 2012 who’s speech explored how music and radio need mavericks to keep moving forward; and in October 2013, Charlotte Church delivered an insightful speech on the theme of women and their representation in the music industry. Last year 6 Music’s Iggy Pop gave a speech on the topic of Free Music in a Capitalist Society.



What Is Killing America’s Bees and What Does It Mean for Us?

Pollinators are vanishing, and a silent spring could become a horrifying reality. So why won’t the EPA do more?
By Alex Morris August 18, 2015

There was a moment last year when beekeeper Jim Doan was ready to concede defeat. He stood in the kitchen of his rural New York home, holding the phone to his ear. Through the window, he could see the frigid January evening settling on the 112-acre farm he’d just been forced to sell two weeks earlier. On the other end of the line, his wife’s voice was matter-of-fact: “Jimmy, I just want to say I’m sorry, but the bees are dead.”

By then, Doan was used to taking in bad news. After all, this was long after the summer of 2006, when he had first started noticing that his bees were acting oddly: not laying eggs or going queenless or inexplicably trying to make multiple queens. It was long after the day when he’d gone out to check his bee yard and discovered that of the 5,600 hives he kept at the time, all but 600 were empty. And it was long after he’d learned back in 2007 that he was not alone, that beekeepers all around the country, and even the world, were finding that their bees had not just died but had actually vanished, a phenomenon that was eventually named colony collapse disorder and heralded as proof of the fast-approaching End of Days by evangelicals and environmentalists alike. Theories abounded about what was causing CCD. Were bees, the most hardworking and selfless of creatures, being called up to heaven before the rest of us? Were they victims of a Russian plot? Of cellphone interference? Of UV light? Were they the “canary in the coal mine,” as the Obama administration suggested, signaling the degradation of the natural world at the hands of man? Possibly. Probably. No one knew.

Even to Doan, at the epicenter of the crisis, none of it had made a lick of sense. As a third-generation beekeeper, he and his family had been running bees since the 1950s, and it had been good money; in the 1980s, a thousand hives could earn a beekeeper between $65,000 and $70,000 a year in honey sales alone, not to mention the cash coming in from leasing hives out to farmers to help pollinate their fields. But more than that, it was a way of life that suited Doan. He’d gotten his first hive in 1968, at the age of five, with $15 he’d borrowed from his parents. He paid his way through college with the 150 hives he owned by then, coming home to tend them on the weekends. He was fascinated by the industrious insects. “It’s just that they are such interesting creatures to watch on a daily basis,” he says. “If you spend any time with bees, you develop a passion for them.”

Read more:

Modeling Research

Traditionally researchers seek to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm works, engineer solutions to problems, activities which rely on an assemblage of skills, diversities, and intuitions. [1] The where, when, and how these are assembled is also traditional to college and universities, where research laboratories are the vehicle for training.

Creativity, judgement, communication, organization, persistence are essential for every researcher [2], skills which should be developed early on, prompting desires, even passions to engage high school students to ensure they hit the ground running after graduating.

A growing body of research [3] has shown the following:

  • Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration.
  • Active-learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement.
  • Students are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn.

Proposed is a program that would leverage a natural resources and sustainability-focused curriculum in formal high school learning environments. McREL International’s GreenSTEM program [4] incorporate science content, technology tools, engineering design, and math applications into problem-based projects, which have the goals of conserving natural resources and energy; reducing pollution, consumption, and waste; and protecting the health of our ecosystems. [5]

The attributes of the GreenSTEM program [6] include:

  • Relevant, engaging project-based learning that blends the latest best-practices in science, technology, engineering, and math;
  • Student-driven sustainable projects that create innovative thinkers;
  • Unique STEM projects that address each school’s unique indoor and outdoor environment, and broader community needs;
  • Green job connections through pathways to business partnerships and higher education;
  • Life-changing and empowering service-learning for students, teachers, parents, and community; and
  • Whole-child and whole-school passion for being lifelong learners and citizen scientists.

With relevance and engagement as a leading characteristic, the proposed work is to utilize an established curriculum as a developmental maneuver to encourage research skills, but first with a focus on native american youth who remain challenged by

  • absenteeism
  • dropout
  • student engagement
  • continuing in higher education and/or jobs

By adapting the GreenSTEM curriculum with cultural relevance, we suggest these challenges can be reduced in frequency while inciting a higher regard for research skills which are consistent with those of the STEM movement, a.k.a. 21st Century. With a regular influence of the GreenSTEM curriculum and relevant hands-on activities, a goal is to develop an interest, even an acumen for discovery.

Supporting this framework is a unique model that would create a collaborative of high school students and their teachers working to identify a local green challenge pursuing solutions along mentors who are 1) undergraduate students, 2) college faculty, and 3) professionals from complementary organizations, those being tribal, agency, business, or industry.

The vision is on a developmental interest pipeline into college and/or career, initiating upon entry into high school, and then nurturing through high school graduation and into their college or career choices.

The pipeline would start for entering ninth graders through a summer camp experience that introduces concepts of discovery, research via citizens monitoring activities that can be sustained throughout the school year. For example, students could monitor rain and snow levels, reporting these to the Community Collaborative Rain Snow and Hail Network (CoCoRaHS)  [7], then establishing similar activities for native plants as a pathway for ethno-biological research based on tribal customs, seeking answers to questions such as any climate impacts on growth patterns, where the mentors play an important role, as do the undergraduate researchers who are funded through the SOAR program.

As those ninth graders move on to tenth, the summer camps become a forum for peer mentoring to entering ninth, sustaining research topics with an expectation that multi-year data will prove more significant and that there will be complementary spin-off ideas that form and are researched, each project supported by the high school-college-agency-business mentorships which are based on knowledge and experience.

Although our first focus is on the high school students, teacher professional development would occur within the mentorship model and become more poignant in secondary years as their knowledge and passions are lifted to become more (but not exclusively) autonomous.

Annually the groups will convene to disseminate and celebrate their discoveries, acknowledge challenges, discuss opportunities for growth, our first work on the Standing Rock Reservation,  expanding to the Spirit Lake Nation, and then onto other Lakota/Dakota/Sioux territories so as to match culture and relevance.  In time we anticipate a model that could be implemented where tribal customs are different, and ideally at non-native rural community schools.

In this work we seek to partner with programs such as the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) [9] which are poised  to involve  high school juniors and seniors from tribal communities in North Dakota, and ultimately with the North Dakota University System [10] host undergraduate research programs at selected schools, but more importantly degree programs in which these pipelined students might enter; system-wide encouragement broadens the capacity of the research collaboratives matching local projects with faculty content expertise, which would extend from multiple campuses.

In summary the project goal is to initiate, nurture, and sustain a conduit beyond high school of native american youth excited about the prospects of discovery, research, and problem solving in advance of joining STEM careers.



STEAM: The A is also for Agriculture

In a rural community where John Deere Corp. produces tillage and seeding equipment, Valley City, ND,  surrounded by farms and ranches is an ideal location for the  78th annual North Dakota Winter Show.

Any of the 71,000+ that attended Winter Show had an opportunity to discover an interactive STEM+Agriculture exhibit that staff at the Great Plains STEM Education Center coordinate as part of the Center’s education and outreach mission.

In the three days of the event, nearly 1000 people sat in a Case IH tractor, and in a simulated farm field, drove, plowed, seeded, or harvested corn in an effort to demonstrate the complex and integrative aspects of farming.

For example in the seeding mode of the simulator, “farmers” are asked to select a seeding rate and then are scored on an ability to balance rate with speed, and similarly when harvesting corn, head height and speed are to be balanced.16763391201_12c1c051df_k

The intricacies of the software design are the sum of efforts by the Center’s Amanda Fickes, John Boucha, accompanied by programmers Jarrod Lactot and Lucas Sorenson, and this author.

Adjacent to the Ag Cab Lab was the arcade styled Ethanol Racer that while challenging a player’s driving skill, coaches on the role that ethanol fuels have on reducing smog, a by-product of burning conventional fuels in metropolitan areas.

As agricultural areas are often the favored locations to site wind farms, a novel experiment was a part of the inter Show STEAM exhibit: design a wind turbine blade generator system that when subjected to a standard window box fan (on high speed) would produce a maximum amount of power as measured by an attached volt meter.

Guiding their effort was Amanda alongside her three interns who prompted a selection on the number of blades, of geometries for blade shape, a protracted blade pitch, and on the recording of relevant data both in tabular form on paper and then entering that data through a web-based touch screen graphical interface. 16577166320_bfc52831bf_k

Once entered, data was displayed and interpreted for patterns between any of the four variables with generation voltage. Guiding the participants work throughout was the Engineering Design Process that is often cited as essential to a STEM Learning.

The three intens are VCSU undergraduates Michaela Halvorson,  Alexis Getzlaff, and Garret Hecker each who earned an internship sponsored by the State Historical Society of North Dakota through a Great Plains STEM Education Center partnership to develop teacher training modules for a renewable energy S.E.N.D. trunk the Center designed.

Adjacently, the [original] Pickled Fish project prompted participants to identify any of the native fish species suspended in ethanol  at the Winter Show with impressive attention, signaling to Center staff that a traveling trunk would be popular among K-12 teachers in North Dakota.  16763384091_2eb220c8fd_k

Funding to attend the Winter Show was made available by the North Dakota Corn Growers with additional support provided via Jeff Beckman and the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and a recent permanent exhibit installation in Bismarck’s Heritage Center fueling design work.

See also our Flickr site for this event:

Network Explores Industry Learning Exchanges

ND STEM Network manager Ryan Aasheim and the Praxis Strategy Group is developing a strategy for the ND STEM Network that includes establishing a STEM Industry Learning Exchange that will work to connect private industry and business with K12 schools, their teachers, and ultimately the learners, our North Dakota children.

Industry Learning Exchanges bring together educators, industry and other stakeholders in government and the non-profit sector to better align and galvanize efforts and resources to create North Dakota’s next generation STEM workforce.  Industry Learning Exchanges are public-private partnerships organized by career cluster that work to coordinate planning, investment and sharing of resources. Learning exchanges promote STEM careers and occupations and identify work place learning opportunities for students that fit their interests and aspirations.

Exchanges create an organizing structure for communications and coordination to better connect programs across the state in a similar career cluster while also tracking local and statewide needs and performance.  Industry participation ensures that STEM curricula reflect current and future skills and trends related to technology.   Successful, high performing programs can be replicated in other localities and/or scaled up for implementation statewide.

A Learning Exchange will be launched in seven identified industries areas below and led by the ND STEM Network to leverage a statewide network of businesses, employer associations, education partners, and other stakeholders. The exchanges would ideally be launched using state investment, but would be supported by investments and on-going commitments from public-private partners.  An initial effort would focus on three industries sectors for one year to build their network, further develop capacity for implementation, and demonstrate function as it leads to enhanced learning.

  1. Energy
  2. Aviation, Aerospace, UAS
  3. Agriculture & Biotech
  4. Software, Computing, & IT
  5. Medical, Health, Life sciences
  6. Manufacturing
  7. Creative Industries

Models for these learning exchanges exist elsewhere, most notably in Illinois:  STEM Learning Exchange.

Graphic: ND STEM Network STEM Industry Learning Exchange

Pilot project:

STEMtastic Jamestown!

What happens when economic development meets workforce development meets K-12 schools meets STEM education in a rural community such as Jamestown, ND?

Something STEMtastically wonderful – a thoughtful approach to producing a workforce that drives economic development which relies on an existing public education infrastructure.

When Vice President of Economic Development of the Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation, Mrs. Holly Miller learned of a regional meeting for the Southeast portion of the statewide North Dakota STEM Network being hosted, she reached out to the Great Plains STEM Education Center to learn more. And after joining that September 2013 meeting of the ND STEM Network at at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo, ND an idea began forming in her mind, an idea that could change Jamestown, population near 15,000, forever.

The Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation (JSDC) was organized to develop employment to improve business conditions and advance the interests of the City of Jamestown and Stutsman County, North Dakota by implementing and sustaining an organized effort to attract new businesses and industry, support existing businesses and industry, and encourage new business starts. Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corporation’s focus is primary sector job creation.

Paramount to that effort is a school system that responds to local workforce needs by producing graduates who are creative, tenacious problem-solvers, great communicators, collaborative and who understand the dynamics of a global economy – attributes that are at the sweet-spot of STEM education!

With STEM education the need to start early is obvious, initiate an interest through high-impact learning strategies starting in elementary school, then nurture that learning into a STEM literacy while progressing through middle and high school, and ultimately upon graduation motivating an entry into the STEM workforce or continuing that education into either a 2 or 4 year program at a college or university.

Teachers inspiring student learning is the first instinct of many a teachers, integrating STEM strategies for many a new and often challenging, enter the Great Plains STEM Education Center (GPSEC) who are seasoned experts at facilitating professional learning opportunities in STEM, these experts include Executive Director of the GPSEC, Dr. David DeMuth, Jr. and STEM Coordinator Dr. Gary Ketterling.

Miller followed up with an invitation in October, 2013 for a meeting with Jamestown K-12 principals on GPSEC offerings, and then alongside  DeMuth presenting to the Jamestown School Board in March, 2014 referencing an evolving STEM strategy for their school which sets as a priority the graduation of more STEM-literate Jamestown students, and who elect to remain in Jamestown for their careers.

Miller, DeMuth, and Tifanie Gelinske, VP, Workforce Development at Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC then put their heads together on a presentation at the Small Business Innovation Summit that same week in Fargo that spoke to the STEM-loaded economic development strategy, only to repeat that talk  in April, 2014 when being joined by Praxis Strategy Group associate Mark Schill at the “Take Root” STEM Summit hosted by the North Dakota STEM Network in Bismarck.

Simultaneously DeMuth was working with Dr. Peggy Norris of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) and the EduTech group on a virtual visit to the SURF lab located 4850 feet below the surface, with over 80 Jamestown middle school students and their teachers joining.

After a successful grant for the 2013-14 to the Monsanto Fund that was driving the integration of new technologies at the K-12 Jamestown schools, Superintendent Rob Lech, Joe Hegland, assigned Rae Ann Vandrovec to work on another grant request, this time focused on the STEM strategy, Vandrovec leading the effort with DeMuth partnering on the grant request.

Growing their own workforce in Jamestown is at the core of the Monsanto Fund supported project now underway in Jamestown, ND.  The “Planting Seeds with STEM” program will provide approximately 400 second and fourth grade students in the Jamestown School District with the skills to incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into active learning experiences that will develop skills for solving real-world problems. Sixteen second and fourth grade teachers, alongside learning coaches, from five Jamestown District elementary schools will participate in two full days, and four half days of professional development with the GPSEC to learn pedagogy and the best methodology for teaching STEM principals.

Picture Perfect Science Lessons and Engineering is Elementary curricula, which are research-based and approved by the National Science Teachers’ Assocation, and student kits including consumable materials will be purchased for the sixteen classrooms involved.  Planting Seeds with STEM will serve as a pilot program for the district to prove the importance of teaching problem solving through multi-disciplinary STEM methodology to improve learning outcomes; the Jamestown District planning to expand the program to the remaining grades in each of the succeeding two years.

Other components of the STEMtastic Jamestown Project may include:

  1. STEM-day for 7th and 8th Grade students
  2. After-school STEMtastic days
  3. STEM Boot Camp
  4. Virtual visitations to the SURF 4850 feet underground at Lead, SD, the NOvA Far Detector at Ash River MN, and the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL.
  5. Individualized STEM learning for Jamestown High teachers and their students.

More details and updates to follow…


  1. Jamestown Public Schools Presentation
  2. Small Business Innovation Summit Presentation
  3. ND STEM Summit Presentation
  4. Planting Seeds with STEM proposal


  1. JSDC, Miller
  2. GPSEC, DeMuth
  3. Jamestown School District