Leaders converge to plan high school science labs

June 7, 2004

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

A high-powered team of scientists, educators, business executives, architects, engineers and leading local high school science teachers convenes Friday at the Field Museum to plan the future of Chicago Public Schools' science laboratories. The event is dubbed "Laboratory Chicago 2020."

The effort represents a significant collaboration between the public and private sectors stimulated by Mayor Daley. The aim is to stretch the limited budget available for renovation of high school science labs, assuring new lab space meets the needs of tomorrow's students. A core objective is to ensure that public school graduates receive a state-of-the-art science education -- an important requirement in today's competitive global labor marketplace.

Kellogg School of Management professor Mohan Sawhney addressed the issue of urban competitiveness and global outsourcing at a recent meeting of civic leaders organized by CEOs for Cities, an urban policy group. Sawhney urged the audience to "create incentives for American students to pursue technical education." He called for leaders to "overhaul mathematics and science curriculum in schools."

Sawhney's views are shared by other local leaders who think improved math and science education could have far-reaching economic benefits. This week's Laboratory Chicago 2020 event squarely addresses this need.

Steve Mitchell, co-chairman of the Mayor's Council of Technology Advisers, is an active behind-the-scenes organizer of the program, which is funded by the Chicago Community Trust. It's been supplemented by private sector donations from Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Accenture Ltd. and individual donors. Ian Robertson, director of Wrigley's Americas information technology unit, and Michael Lach, director of science education at the Chicago Public Schools, chairman of the event.

"We want to make sure we're building labs designed for the next 20 to 25 years, not labs designed for the 1970s," says Marty Gartzman, chief mathematics and science officer for Chicago Public Schools. Gartzman says the group will consider what laboratory science instruction should look like in the early 21st century, the impact technology plays in teaching science and the possibility for applying technology in the design and construction of new labs.

"Laboratory instruction is an essential part of any science course. Right now the opportunity to learn science in a modern laboratory varies across the schools," Gartzman says. "Our goal is to even out that landscape so that all students have the opportunity to benefit from high-quality science instruction in a modern, well-equipped lab."

Says Robertson, the father of three school-age children, "I love technology and to see how technology can make things better."

He's concerned about how his children will be educated to deal with the world of the future. "The world really has moved on," adds Robertson, who believes, "there are better ways to facilitate knowledge transfer today with new technology."

Slack buys StrongForce

StrongForce Group, a start-up technology public relations firm, agreed to be acquired by Slack Barshinger, a leading national business-to-business communications agency. Slack Barshinger's clients include Centerpost, Dipsie, eBay, SmartSignal and Tellabs. The deal is a victory for StrongForce founders Paul Battaglia, 52, and Mark Smith, 51, who launched their business at the depths of the dot-com bust in January 2002 and persevered. Both join Slack Barshinger as senior vice presidents, with Battaglia assuming additional responsibilities as a practice director. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bits & bytes

*Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell speaks Saturday at IIT on the lessons learned from his aborted moon-landing mission. Actor Tom Hanks starred as Lovell in the 1995 Hollywood film "Apollo 13," which chronicled Lovell's heroism. Less well-known: Lovell is a successful entrepreneur who built and sold a telecommunications equipment firm.

*Tech company finalists for Thursday's Ernst & Young Illinois Entrepreneur of the Year Award include: Kevin McDonald, CEO, and Stefan Krauskopf, COO, Compendit; Matt Moog, CEO, CoolSavings; Len Foxman, president, Eagle Test Systems; John Fish, CEO, Hubbard One; Richard Cucco, president, Imagetec; Ned Bennett, CEO, and David Kalt, president, OptionsXpress; James Crouthamel, founder, Performics; Cary Chessick, president, Restaurant.com; Mark Miller, CEO, Stericycle; Kent Steffen, CEO, Telution, and David Demirjian, CEO, ZuChem.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago tech writer and consultant.

 

 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners