24 MIT News May/June 2018 www.technologyreview.com
In 2008, the MIT Club of Germany helped send two secondary school teachers to MIT’s Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (SEPT).
During the weeklong summer program
on MIT’s campus, middle and high school
teachers attend lectures by MIT researchers, try out the latest technology developed at the Institute, and talk shop with
professors, students, researchers, and fellow teachers.
“They came back so excited and eager
to do something for STEM teachers in Ger-
many,” says club treasurer Stefan Weissflog,
SM ’92. “So we decided to do something
similar and make our Germany club a
bridge between schools and science.”
Channeling the teachers’ enthusiasm,
the club launched an annual weeklong
conference in Erfurt called the Schule
MIT Wissenschaft, or School with Science.
(The name is a pun: “mit” means “with” in
German.) Modeled on SEPT, the confer-
ence adopts the MIT mind-set of solving
real-world problems and allows alumni to
engage directly with Germany’s K– 12 com-
munity. In the decade since its founding, it
has attracted hundreds of secondary school
teachers, and its featured speakers have
included MIT faculty and Nobel laureates.
“In Germany, science is taught only
discipline by discipline,” says Weissflog.
“Our Schule is interdisciplinary. We have
MIT scientists talking directly to teach-
ers, who then carry over that MIT spirit
of excitement to their students.”
Schule MIT Wissenschaft may be the
Association’s largest club-organized vol-
unteer event focused on science, tech-
nology, engineering, and mathematics
(STEM). But it is one of many around
the world that harness both the Institute’s
STEM expertise and the commitment of
MIT alumni to public service.
“There’s a strong humanities aspect of
STEM,” says Marcelo Montaniel, SM ’ 74,
the vice president of K– 12 initiatives for
the Club of Dallas and Fort Worth. “We’re
helping people learn about technologies
that improve the lives of people and [lead
to] the betterment of the world.”
Nearly every active MIT alumni club
performs STEM-related service work,
including the Dallas and Fort Worth club,
which solicits MIT alumni judges for an
annual science fair that attracts more than
200 middle and high school students.
“Promoting STEM is in our blood,”
says Club of Wisconsin president Christie
Lin ’ 11, SM ’ 12. “Especially if the events
are hands-on and kind of nerdy.” The Wis-
consin club organizes at least one STEM-
focused event per month, and it created a
new club position, director of volunteer-
ing and outreach, in 2014. The club had a
strong presence at the 2017 Experimental
Aircraft Association’s AirVenture conven-
tion in Oshkosh, the largest annual avi-
ation event in the world, which attracts
more than 500,000 attendees.
The club’s director of volunteering,
Russell Cuhel, PhD ’ 81, hosted an event at
the convention that featured research conducted by MIT alumni, including hands-on demos, and alumni and high school
students working together on drones.
“Most importantly, it [showcased] STEM
research on a community level,” says Lin.
Many alumni clubs in New England
use their proximity to MIT faculty to
attract attendees to events. The Club of
New Hampshire, for example, hosts an
annual MIT lecture at Phillips Exeter
Academy. The 2017 lecture, which was
free and open to the public and drew
a primary audience of high school students, featured architecture professor
John Fernandez ’ 85 and focused on environmental sustainability.
“If you pick the right topic and a
speaker who can bring STEM to life, the
students will show up,” says club president
David Godfrey ’ 74. “Our goal is to open
this up to as many young people as possible and really get them engaged in STEM.”
Other clubs farther from campus have
used the SEP T program to send members
of their community to MIT. The Club of
Chicago has helped send two local high
school teachers to the application-only
program in the past two years.
“Our board members are always
reaching out to the local high schools
to raise awareness about SEPT and the
opportunity it presents,” says club presi-
dent Mehul Shah ’01. “SEPT is a firehose
of education, and it’s our responsibility to
share this with the teachers and adminis-
trators at our local schools.”
The Chicago club’s STEM efforts,
which also include service work in under-
served schools and communities, are
fueled by equal parts civic and MIT pride.
“I graduated from MIT but I’m also from CO
Alumni clubs promote science and engineering education
in their communities.
The MIT Club of Wisconsin
holds a monthly STEM event.