STEM Knows No Borders: Midwest STEM Forum V

Midwest STEM leaders in downtown Madison, Wisconsin
Midwest STEM leaders convened for a pre-forum reception in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, earlier this month.

Iowa STEM Council members from DuPont-Pioneer, Rockwell Collins and John Deere summoned the executive director in 2012 to encourage more inter-state collaboration, "After all," they said, "...our businesses span these state borders." Solutions to talent development in Iowa or Wisconsin or North Dakota ought to be shared for the good of the region. With the help of the Governor's office, STEM leaders across Midwest states were identified, and a regional STEM community was born. September 8 was the fifth annual Midwest STEM Forum, held in Madison, Wisconsin, after first convening at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines, then at John Deere Technology and Innovation Center in Moline, followed by ACT® in Iowa City, then DuPont-Pioneer in Johnston.

Membership has expanded to include members from beyond the Midwest, and turn-over in these transient positions is evident. Of the original leaders convened in 2013, three are still in place (Wisconsin, Kansas, and Iowa).

Forum V included representatives from Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa, along with guests from Change The Equation and STEMx. Corporate representation included Rockwell Collins, Vermeer and Alliant Energy.

The agenda included an evening reception at the Wisconsin Science Museum and the Maker Space at the Madison Central Library. The Forum was kicked off by Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch who inspired the gatherers with the array of STEM solutions operating in the state. Alliant Energy President and CEO Pat Kampling spoke at lunch of the demand for employees in the utilities industry and how hopeful she is over gatherings such as this one.

Most of the day was devoted to sharing both successes and challenges ranging from infrastructural (such as establishing local networks) to political (gaining the attention of elected officials) to programmatic (including computer science, state ESSA plans, diversity initiatives, etc.). As varied, unique and specific as each state's landscape (political, economic, geographic and demographic), STEM is a common denominator.