Fireside chat demonstrates STEM education is not just another BRiC in the wall

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By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer

America may be shockingly ranked 39th in the world when it comes to math and science, but leaders at Boca Raton Innovation Campus [BRiC] are working to change that.

West Palm Beach anchorwoman and Henderson alum Gianna Caserta led a packed fireside chat with Modernizing Medicine CEO Daniel Cane and A.D. Henderson Superintendent Dr. Joel Herbst on Jan. 15 inside Boca’s BRiC Conference Center.

Focusing on the topic of “Leading the Way in STEM Education,” Cane and Herbst discussed the various ways A.D. Henderson University School and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) High School are changing lives locally and beyond.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Now, many programs are adding A for arts to make the acronym, STEAM.

“While we’re falling behind other countries in math, in Florida, graduation rates are up across the state,” Herbst said. “Our governor is focused on funding education now and investing in teachers and students in a way we’ve never seen before.”

In 2018, Cane and his wife Debra, gifted the A.D. Henderson University School and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) High School with $1 million.

The impact of that gift can be seen through The Cane Institute for Advanced Technologies.

“We need to prepare our students today for the jobs of tomorrow,” Cane said. “The STEAM jobs are the hardest jobs the country to fill and there are at least a million of these jobs in the U.S. The average starting salary is $90,000. As a community, we need to make more STEAM-related jobs available locally so these graduates aren’t going off to Silicon Valley, New York and other places after graduation.”

As event goers sipped wine and sampled food from Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen in Boca Raton, they were also able to view student projects and experiments such as electric cars and go-karts, robots, drones and rockets from the Henderson school.

Matthew Alberto, a senior at A.D. Henderson University School & FAU High School was proudly displaying an electric go-kart project that’s used as a stepping stone for freshmen in the Experimental Vehicle Club. “I grew up loving cars and never imagined I’d be working on experimental cars,” said Alberto, 18, who resides in Deerfield Beach. “This school has opened opportunities for me I would not have had anywhere else.”

While the discussion highlighted the importance of STEM education and how Henderson and FAU High School are creating an enviable academic foundation for students, the results speak for themselves.

“We’ve had 36 students graduate from college before high school and debt free,” Cane said.

According to Herbst, two students have already received patents and another two students have patents pending.

And while all students who received a STEM-focused education may not end up in a STEM-related field, Cane maintains the skills learned are priceless. They are working with cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, automation and artificial intelligence.

“These students are learning how to problem-solve and how to think critically,” Cane said. “We need to give them innovative content, encouragement and then get out of their way.”