MJHS graduate, astronaut Wilmore on hand for announcement
MT. JULIET -- Gov. Phil Bredesen, joined by NASA Space Shuttle pilot and Mt. Juliet native Capt. Barry Wilmore, on Friday announced a new public education partnership with the global research and development enterprise Battelle as part of Tennessee's push in the federal Race to the Top competition for education innovation.
Under the partnership, Battelle, which co-manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in a joint venture with the University of Tennessee, will work with the state Department of Education and local school systems to establish a statewide network of programs and schools designed to promote and expand the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and math -- or STEM -- education.
The "Tennessee STEM Innovation Network" will be modeled in part on previous STEM efforts led by Battelle in other states, including its home state of Ohio. The new partnership comes on the heels of President Obama's November launch of "Educate to Innovate," a nationwide campaign to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade. Battelle is a "core partner" in the national campaign.
Bredesen, who majored in physics in college, said Tennessee already is well positioned thanks to a strong base of existing businesses, colleges and universities, programs, local schools and other organizations focused on 21st-Century innovation. With Battelle joining as a partner, he said, Tennessee can expand educational opportunities and better coordinate efforts for the benefit of teachers and kids across the state. Additionally, he said, Tennessee can create new STEM teaching and learning models that can be shared with the rest of the country.
"Battelle is a world-class partner with a track record of bringing innovative teaching and learning strategies into public schools," Bredesen said. "We want to learn from their experience and make Tennessee the nation's leader in STEM education."
Joining Bredesen in making the Battelle announcement at Mt. Juliet High School was Capt. Wilmore, a graduate of Mt. Juliet High, Tennessee Tech University and the University of Tennessee, who embodies the importance of STEM teaching and learning to America's future, a spokesperson said. The astronaut's studies in aviation and electrical engineering laid the groundwork for a career that eventually led him to pilot NASA's STS-129 Space Shuttle mission last month. Promoting STEM learning is a key priority in NASA's public education efforts.
"Capt. Wilmore represents the very best of Tennessee and the life opportunities that exist for kids who want to pursue science and math," Bredesen said. "We appreciate NASA's commitment to promoting STEM learning in America."
"We applaud the state of Tennessee for its vision to enhance science and math education, and we look forward to working as a partner in this major public-private effort," said Battelle's Richard Rosen, vice president, Education and Philanthropy. "Advancing STEM education is key to the future of our nation."
Battelle has strong roots in STEM education. In August 2006, Battelle helped launch Ohio's first STEM-based school, Metro Early College High School, on the campus of The Ohio State University. For the past two years, Battelle has managed the Ohio STEM Learning Network, a public-private partnership designed to foster and spread meaningful and sustainable innovations that change the way education looks and works. It has mobilized the support of 47 institutions of higher education, 81 public school districts, and more than 300 unique business and community partners. This fall, Battelle applied lessons learned from Metro High School to launch Delta High School in Richland, Wash.
As the world's largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world's most pressing needs in energy and the environment, national security, and health and the life sciences. Battelle conducts more than $5.2 billion in global research and development annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle is one of the nation's leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science and math education.
Detailed plans for Battelle's involvement in the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network will be developed in the coming weeks. The ultimate scope of the network will hinge, in part, on whether Tennessee is successful in securing federal funds as part of the President's Race to the Top competition. Regardless of federal dollars, Bredesen said it's time for a new focus on STEM teaching and learning in Tennessee schools.
"In America and Tennessee, we have an obligation to improve our role in the global economy and create high-quality innovation jobs for the future," Bredesen said. "Our new partnership with Battelle is a bold step toward making STEM a statewide and a national priority."