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Cascade Systems Technology’s CEO, Shantanu Gupta, serves as judge in TechStart’s 2022 Technology Educator of the Year Awards

A short while before authoring my May 2nd blog calling for tech companies to join Cascade Systems Technology in lending a helping hand to STEM students and programming, I had the honor of being asked to serve as a judge for the 2022 Technology Educator of the Year Awards hosted by TechStart.

In its own words (which you can peruse more closely on the Techstart website), TechStart is an Oregon-based 501(c)3 non-profit…created by Oregon technology leaders with the goal of expanding access to computer science education for K-12 students in our state. …an all-volunteer organization, [the] organization is allied with the Technology Association of Oregon.”

TechStart’s mission, in other words, centers on and align with the same truths I mentioned previously, among them: “we live in a digital economy, where technical skills are essential for millions of jobs,” that “our nation is projected to have a substantial shortfall of tech professionals for years to come,” and that “to build a stronger workforce, to plan for our state’s future, and to give today’s kids the best opportunities to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, we need to help our schools and educators.”

Enter teachers like TJ Wilson, a career and technical education (CTE) teacher at Willamina Middle and High School, who, among other 2022 TechStart award winners, won this year’s “rising star” award.

TJ was nominated by his school’s principal, Jami Fluke, and recognized by me and my fellow judges, in part, because he had the vision and doggedly marshalled the resources to support his school’s CTE curriculum by putting together what TechStart board member, Peter Steinfeld, describes as “an amazing set of automated machines that they’re using on a variety of projects doing metal working, wood working, sign making, and much more.” With this equipment in place, TJ’s students learn to use software to design products and operate a range of equipment, such as a CNC laser, CNC mill, CNC press brake, CNC router, and 3D printers.

As inspiring as TJ’s story and the accomplishments of his peers are, as a judge in this year’s TechStart awards I was equally struck by (let’s call it) the STEM ecosystem was in the process. (In its way, it is not unlike the parallel ecosystem I’ve been writing about recently in the semiconductor arena.) For the STEM discipline to work and yield results in the coming years initiative to work, a host of ecosystem partners will be necessary to its success.

These include:

  • Educators at all levels (K-12, trade schools, community colleges, universities) – We will need schools, school boards, teachers, principals, clubs, parents, and even taxpayers who see the value of investing time, capital, equipment, class-space, and curriculum planning in support of STEM initiatives. Oh, and maker spaces, lots of maker spaces!
  • Independent STEM organizations – One example would be the founding visionaries and board members of TechStart, who recognize the importance of STEM and then do something about it, by volunteering time, talent, and energy and much more.
  • Trade organizations – such as the Technology Association of Oregon who align with STEM-focused schools and the TechStarts of the world.
  • Public sector entities (aka: government), economic development organizations, and elected officials – who provide funding through grants, collaborating partnerships, resources, meeting spaces, and, importantly, space on their already busy agendas and calendars
  • And the private sector – whose financial support, material donations, volunteerism, and other modest-effort/huge-impact involvement in STEM programs bring their efforts and programming full circle. After all, who — more than industry – will most benefit from tomorrow’s well-trained, tech-skilled, motivated, and energized workforce? And all it takes, as I’ve seen from my own experience at a TechStart judge, is willingness to provide facility tours, internships, professional mentoring. (Case in point: CST has offered to host the students of each of the winning teacher’s STEM class, so they can see a working tech factory and learn about: how semiconductors are assembled into a circuit board using latest SMT technologies; how the circuit board assemblies are inspected with X-ray and optical technologies for defects, then assembled into complete boxes or protected with conformal coating for use in harsh environments. You can see how an earlier, Washingt0n-based STEM class tour unfolded at CST as described in my May 2, 2022 blog.)

All of these levels of the STEM ecosystem have a vital role to play if STEM initiatives are to take hold and create the sea change that is needed in the U.S. technology sector is to remain strong, competitive, innovative, and dynamic.

Let’s all identify and pick up our respective oars in the boat – and begin rowing!

–  Shantanu R. Gupta,
CEO, Cascade Systems Technology

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