Debra Mercora is a Superintendent in New Jersey who emphasizes the importance of science and technology in the classroom. In the following article, Debra Mercora discusses the highlights of NJIT STEM leadership forum that took place in October.
Students were welcomed back to the New Jersey Institute of Technology classrooms in the fall. Superintendents and educators around the state were once again invited back to the university’s fifth STEM School Leadership Forum.
The event, which took place in October, and was sponsored by the NJIT’s CPCP (Center for Pre-College Programs), began in the Campus Center Atrium. Both virtual and in-person attendees were welcomed by Fadi Deek, NJIT Provost, and Jacqueline Cusack, Director of the CPCP.
The Keynote Speaker
Debra Mercora, Superintendent says that the three-time alum (1983, 1984, and 1987), President of Digital, Robotics and Enabling Technologies at Stryker Corporation, and Chair of the NJIT Board of Trustees was the Forum’s keynote speaker.
As a well-respected individual with a star-studded resume, including a Fellow to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and over 25 patents, Cohen avidly talked about Stryker’s phenomenal advances in medical technology that are improving patient outcomes. But, perhaps more importantly to some at the event, Debra Mercora, Superintendent reports that he shared the challenges he has noticed in finding adequate STEM talent across the state.
Now Is the Most Exciting Time for MedTech
At the top of his speech, Cohen discloses his love for STEM, stating he “has the best job in the world,” allowing him to discuss the latest medical device technologies with the brilliant minds at Stryker.
Debra Mercora, Superintendent says that whether it’s robotics or digital aspects, Cohen seems to adore the subject — and according to him, now is the most exciting time to be involved with the MedTech field. And considering he’s been at it for 35 years, attendees truly took his words to heart.
But despite his enthusiasm, he spoke wholeheartedly about the lack of students leaving New Jersey’s education system and going into STEM fields. There simply aren’t enough interested parties to meet the ever-growing demand.
A Particular Lack of Data Scientists and Engineers
In recent years, Stryker has constructed the world’s biggest metal medical technology 3D-printing facilities. The company’s innovations have the power to take on even more designs and continue positively impacting patient outcomes.
But even though innovation is at an all-time best, they have enough data scientist or engineers to fill its plethora of job vacancies, prompting Cohen to discuss the ever-increasing need for trained professionals who can study, develop, and make surgical equipment and software.
Time for Audience Questions
Upon concluding his talk, Debra Mercora of NJ said that Cohen fielded questions from his avid listeners on how educators can prepare students for the pathway to MedTech.
He stated that excitement and appreciation need to begin in elementary and middle schools. Young pupils need to be engaged and ask questions — how does Bluetooth work? How do wireless PlayStation controllers work? Such concepts are relatable and have the power to inspire an entire digitally focused generation.
Visitors Draw Inspiration from NJIT’s Facility-Loaded Grounds
If Robert Cohen’s encouraging speech wasn’t enough, the event gave attendees a chance to explore NJIT’s rich campus and take cutting-edge ideas back to their own classrooms to enhance learning and one day fill the swathes of job vacancies in the field.
Debra Mercora of NJ reports that visiting educators enjoyed tours of the university’s diverse laboratories. Many enjoyed perusing the organ and tissue 3D-printing technology inside the Instructive Biomaterials and Additive Manufacturing Lab. Others loved the prototypes found at the NJIT Makerspace. And the rest explored the Leir Business Data Observatory and the brand-new Forensic Science Lab, which focuses on crime investigation and analysis.
Inspired By Cohen and NJIT’s Innovative Lab Spaces, Attendees Are Making Much-Need Enhancements to Their Facilities
From the various maker tools for prototyping and manufacturing to the educational opportunities like NJIT’s latest mechatronics course, event visitors were given a wealth of inspiration to improve their offerings.
Debra Mercora, Superintendent in NJ was in attendance, and says it made sense to attend the event held at such an esteemed university so she could recreate the facilities at her elementary school. The STEM curriculum and Makerspace are currently under construction, and Debra Mercora notes that viewing NJIT’s facilities have reinvigorated their approach.
The Forum proved insightful for all school leaders who’ve gone away and plan to implement the inspirations in their own pre-college level schools.