Albemarle Hosts Brainstorming Session Focused on STEM Education

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The former CEO of the nation's largest defense contractor is helping Albemarle County Public Schools to prepare its students for high-tech careers.

The school system hosted the retired head of Lockheed Martin, Norm Augustine, Monday for a brainstorming session to improve classroom and hands-on education in the stem fields - science, technology, engineering, and math.

"We teach math. We teach science.  We teach history and English. We don't teach engineering, yet engineers are creating most of the jobs," said Augustine.   

Albemarle County Public Schools invited Augustine to assess the system's progress teaching students in the STEM fields.

"The thrust here has been to immerse young people in an environment where they have to use math to solve problems they want to solve," said Augustine.

Elizabeth Hillstrom heads to Stanford next week after graduating from Albemarle's Math Engineering and Science Academy. She briefed Augustine on an academy project to build a robotic sailboat.

"It's about a way of thinking. Engineering is just problem solving. There are a lot of careers beyond engineering that involve problem solving," said Elizabeth Hillstrom.

Albemarle says it's working to integrate applied engineering education into classrooms from kindergarten on.

"Every student in our division - elementary, middle, and high - needs to have some exposure to what engineering principles, engineering thinking, and science and math background look like," said Billy Haun, assistant superintendent for student learning for Albemarle schools.

Augustine encourages central Virginia's business community to communicate with the schools and work with educators to prepare students for careers of the future.

"Business can do that and, I think, make a big difference not only for the good of the nation, good of national security, good of the economy. But, it's good business, too, because these are going to be their employees in the future," said Augustine.

Monday's roundtable included representatives from several defense contractors, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and the University of Virginia.    

A new STEM academy will open at Western Albemarle High School next year focusing on green technology.