"What Can I Do To Prepare Myself For A STEM Career?": Guest Blogger Anne Jolly Has Some Great Answers!

RE@L logo_Corp_color_RGB-high-REZWe welcome Guest Blogger, Anne Jolly, to our RE@L Blog Forum today. As you can see from her resume’ below, Anne has a strong STEM background, beginning with her experience as a middle school science teacher, and later, her extensive experiences as STEM consultant and writer. AnneJolly

Ms. Jolly has also worked with establishing standards-based STEM lessons, which are in great demand throughout our K12 schools today.

Let’s read what Anne has to say.


Want to know more about RE@L STEM careers?  Start by checking out the blog posts already on this RE@L website!  (RE@L interjects: Thanks, Anne!)

Why look here at the RE@L site? Because here you’re hearing from engineers, businessmen, and educators who actually work with STEM careers and who develop and use many technologies.

Here’s an important question for you: STEM2How can you best prepare for a STEM career? STEM careers involve creating solutions for real-world problems that people and industries must face. What knowledge, skills, and abilities will you need to be a successful 21st Century employee? Here are a few things for you to think about:

  • You will need a strong working knowledge of science and mathematics.  Taking advanced science and math coursework is important in developing a deep understanding of these subjects. You can learn more about science and math through traditional coursework, as well as using computer programs and accessing products such as RE@L’s Basics apps. Also try the Kahn Academy for good academic learning experiences. They have a massive collection of helpful educational learning videos on almost every topic and at every level.
  • You will need to understand how science and math work together to solve problems.  In school, science and math are often taught in different classes, as if they were totally unconnected.  Not so!         To solve real world problems, science and math must work together. For example, suppose you are developing a blood clot filter to keep blood clots from reaching the lungs. You have to know about the science of the human body and the mathematics of measuring unit rate and flow rate, among other topics.
  • You will need to learn how to take a hands-on approach to figuring things out for yourself. You will also need to do careful planning and record-keeping, of course. Be sure, whenever possible, that you are actually working directly with materials to develop products (prototypes) for solutions, whenever you can. It provides a real-world experience.
  • GoalYou will need to learn how to think like an engineer. In other words, you should learn to approach problem-solving as an engineer would approach it. This involves something we call the engineering design process. Engineers work together to first understand the problem; then do research about the problem; and follow it with brainstorming different possible solutions. They choose a solution they think is best; create a prototype; test that prototype to see if it works; and evaluate the results.  It usually works! Check out the seven sectors of the circle to the right.
  • What if your prototype doesn’t work? No problem!  An engineer will tell you that as they develop a product, it often fails to work properly. That actually helps them learn how to redesign it and make it better. Thomas Edison experimented with thousands of filaments to make the first electric light bulb. When one didn’t work, he’d say that’s not a failure. It’s just one that doesn’t workSo, in STEM you don’t have to be afraid of failure. Instead, you can learn from failure and you create improved products.
  • You must be personally involved with technology.  Technology has several key places in the STEM world.  First, technology is anything that is invented by humans to meet a want or a need.  A pencil is a technology.  A chair is a technology.  So you are actually creating technologies when you build prototypes to solve problems. Technology can refer to the materials and tools you use to construct and build things. This may involve science equipment, along with more advanced tools such as you find in Career Tech programs. Technology also involves electronic and digital devices, such as computers, certain software programs, and the Internet.  So, in STEM, technology is always present in one way or another.
  • Unknown-1You have to know how to work successfully with a team. Problem-solving is almost always a team responsibility. When you enter the workforce you’ll be expected to work with teams. You’ll need to know what behaviors are good team behaviors, such as taking responsibility, listening carefully to others, being respectful, and so on.  You will generally make decisions and reach solutions as a team.  One of your jobs in school will be to help make sure that everyone – both girls and boys and other ethnicities – are welcomed as equal members of the STEM team. Skills are the key to a successful STEM team, not gender or race.
  • You need to be creative, curious, and come up with new solutions. If you really want to be an amazing 21st Century STEM employee, think outside the box.  Realize there’s more than one way to solve a problem and try to come up with a solution that’s faster, more successful, and more creative than current solutions. Think about all of the cool devices that have been invented – mobile phones, for example.  Now think how these have changed and improved from year to year, and keep changing.  STEM workers are among the great inventors!

UnknownWith the right preparation, anyone can choose a STEM career!  If you want to get started having some fun now finding and solving problems. For example, take a virtual trip to the Design Squad Nation.  You’ll find some interesting ideas there.  Browse around on the National Geographic  education website. Scientific American has a great website, Bring Science Home.  It features interesting science activities. Please note that not all of the activities at these sites are strictly STEM. Some don’t involve math. However, they involve you in many areas of STEM. And that’s a good start. USAFcollaboratory

One of my favorite online STEM sites for becoming involved in real life problem-solving is the Air Force Collaboratory.  Be sure to check that one out. It’s way cool and great fun to play and learn.

Now, it’s your turn to talk to us! 

If you have some favorite STEM sites or activities, or just some questions about STEM, just email your comments and questions to: comments@realexperiencesatlife.com We look forward to hearing from YOU!


Thanks to Anne Jolly for all these helpful ideas and answers to help kids everywhere consider a STEM career! (Note: Teachers may want to check out some of Anne’s resource links below. We think you will find them very helpful in bringing STEM into your classrooms.) AnneJolly

Anne Jolly Bio: Anne Jolly began her career as a lab scientist, caught the science teaching bug and was recognized as an Alabama Teacher of the Year during her years as a middle grades science teacher. Today, she works with teacher teams in schools across the Southeast to help them take control of their own professional learning.

Her practical how-to book Team to Teach is published by Learning Forward. Anne is also a curriculum writer and consultant for a Mobile-based, NSF-supported project to develop engaging, standards-based STEM lessons. Her next book, STEM by Design, is coming out in 2015. Check out Anne’s blog, STEM by Design at MiddleWeb.

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.