Bay City to host an international STEM conference in June

Bay City was born as a lumbering town. In its teens, it was a manufacturing hub.

Today, the community has matured into a global center for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives that’s preparing to host an international conference in 2022.

“Planet, People, Prosperity” the first in-person convening of the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice is planned for June 20-22 in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region. Organizers say this area is home of one of the nation’s most successful Ecosystems, the Great Lakes Bay Region STEM Ecosystem.

STEM ecosystems are partnerships between schools any any community institution that offers learning opportunities in STEM. Common partners include museums, libraries, and after-school programs.

“A major part of the convening is to showcase the wonderful things that are going on there,” says Veronica Gonzales, Director of STEM Learning Ecosystems in New York, NY.

"Planet, People, Prosperity” will explore practical strategies for how communities can use STEM to drive gains in equity, social mobility and efforts to safeguard the environment.

During the event, representatives from the United States, Mexico, Canada, Israel, and Kenya will tour sites in the Great Lakes Bay Region to study what’s working and to exchange best practices.

“We’ll highlight the business involved, highlight the great accomplishments you guys have made in early childhood and many other things,” Gonzales says.

Lori Flippin, the STEM Initiative Leader for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance (GLBRA), says the Freeland-based organization partnered with the Mi STEM Network, Michigan STEM Partnership, STEM Ecosystems, and TIES (Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM, to bring the convening here.

“It is really exciting,” Flippin says. “We’re very hopeful and just really excited to have it here.”

The GLBRA serves Bay, Midland, Isabella, and Saginaw counties. But the entire state is involved in planning the event. Organizers are approaching specific programs in this area to be part of the program, she adds.

Many options exist.

For example, the Chief Science Officers program at Saginaw Valley State University fits into the “people” portion of the theme. The successful SVSU program, which helps middle school and high school students discover STEM careers, was modeled on an Arizona program, Flippin adds.

“Whenever we go to these convenings, we look for what ideas we can still and bring here,” Flippin says. “The Chief Science Officers program came from the STEM Ecosystem in Arizona.“

At SVSU, the program has thrived. It’s reached more than 70,000 students and is now adding Central Michigan University as a cohort, expanding the reach to eight counties.

“To be able to show how the idea came from Arizona, how it grew here, how we expanded together, that’s one example of something we could easily feature,” Flippin says.

Sustainability efforts fit into the “planet” portion of the theme. “There’s a ton of work with Dow and sustainability that we’ve joined in on. We’ve got a business sustainability pledge that Delta College has taken the lead on.”

Michigan Sugar recently announced a $65 million expansion that increases the amount of sugar the factory produces without any additional planting. Flippin says the project is a good fit for the program. Read more about the Michigan Sugar project in Route Bay City. 

The riverfront parks in Bay City create the possibility for learning sessions to take place in nature. For example, Flippin says convention goers walking through Wenonah Park in Downtown Bay City would see examples of Bay Sail’s education programs. Delta College and SVSU could park their STEM buses in the park and offer tours. Finally, visitors could cross the street to catch a show at the Delta College Planetarium.

“We’re looking to have the community to be a completely involved community in this conference,” Flippin says. “We’re going to be making requests of partners.”