Close to 800 educators, leaders, and industry representatives convened today to hear ‘Science Evangelist’ Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox and a panel of community leaders speak on the impact STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education has on society and economic growth—and the importance of adding excitement to the STEM learning equation—as part of the 4th annual STEM Best Practices Conference hosted by the Utah STEM Action Center.

“There are thousands of high-paying local tech jobs going unfilled due to a shortage of STEM talent,” Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said. “One of the greatest problems we have in our country is developing an education system aligned with industry needs.”

The daylong conference offered 52 distinct breakout seminars—led by teachers, scientists, and nonprofit organizations—that included hands-on learning sessions, discussion groups, and dynamic lesson demonstrations, all centered on K-12 education.

“Ultimately, when it comes to the way we teach science, we have to make a change, because the world has changed,” said Dr. Ainissa Ramirez. “We are in a very technologically rich society and we want to make sure that all of our children are participants—we want them to be pilots and not passengers through the 21st Century.”

In addition to various presentations highlighting effective STEM education practices in Utah communities, KUTV morning anchor Holly Menino announced nine new Utah STEM School designees, and state Senator Ralph Okerlund received the Comcast STEM Dynamo Award in recognition of his efforts to expand STEM education among some of the most rural parts of the state.

“If we can’t prepare our students for the real-life applied learning that drives innovation, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice,” said STEM Action Center executive director, Tamara Goetz, Ph.D. “Providing educators with a forum for thought-sharing around what’s working in classrooms, and the information and tools they need to support STEM growth and engagement, is critical to developing the skills required to keep up with the pace of progress.”

For more information please visit: stem.utah.gov/bestpractices