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Earth Day Texas Helps Environment, Educates Kids About STEM

TexasEarthDay-feature

A LOOK BACK AT HOW THE EVENT SHOWCASED TECHNOLOGY, TOO


I’ve always heard about Earth Day as being a worldwide annual celebration held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

In March, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Matt Myers, Director of Business Development for Earth Day Texas. We were both serving as volunteers for the National Academy Foundation at North Dallas High School, which strives to transform high school experiences for students by bringing together education, business, and community leaders.

As we chatted, I discovered that Matt was in the thrust of organizing the Earth Day Texas event.  He asked if IBM had any solutions that would resonate at his event. Off the top of my head I described solutions in the areas of energy management, asset management, smarter buildings, and city urbanization.

“We decided there was great synergy between technology and environmental protection that would resonate well with the intended audiences at Earth Day Texas.” –Romelia Flores

I invited the Earth Day Texas team to come see demonstrations of the solutions our team could share. We decided there was great synergy between technology and environmental protection that would resonate well with the intended audiences at Earth Day Texas.

FOCUSING ON TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION

As we planned our team’s participation and learned more about the event we determined it would be valuable to have a breadth of technology at our booth, which would resonate with business professionals, university-level students, students in general as well as parents. So on April 22-24, (Earth Day weekend) we set up a large company booth showcasing Cognitive Business, Internet of Things, and Agile Development Environments.

We found ourselves having wonderful discussions regarding how these technologies are being utilized in many diverse ways.

For example, cognitive technologies are being used to provide treatment advice to physicians and develop new interactive toys that adjust with a child’s learning patterns, therefore improving healthcare and education in our environment. The Internet of Things (IoT) is being utilized to link drivers and vehicles to the surrounding environment to improve driver experiences.

For the younger crowd, we focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities such as Van de Graaff visits to discuss the value of research, laser beams and how they are used in LASIK procedures invented by IBM and Smart Fuel Cell Cars, which relate to energy efficiency and automated driving. These hands-on activities raised visitor curiosity and literally left young visitors with their hair standing.

During my career, I personally have had the wonderful opportunity to work on environmental projects such as the creation of an “Emissions Dashboard” for one of our clients. This dashboard was targeted at improving overall plant operations and efficiency through active monitoring for reduction of emissions intensity by tapping into IoT sensors.

At a corporate level, research initiatives such as Green Horizons have evolved to focus on enabling city governments, utility companies, and factories to better understand and improve their relationships with the environment and to help tackle pressing issues related to air pollution and climate change.

Given my involvement with Smarter Cities Challenges and the Dallas Innovation Alliance, I was asked to participate in a Smarter Cities Panel Discussion at Earth Day Texas, which focused on the use of technology to improve city environments.

The final question for our panel was “how do we see technology being utilized in cities of the future?” All our panelists agreed that technology such as cloud, analytics, mobile and the internet of things will be critical in our environment.

“It’s about kids, it’s about getting them excited to learn about STEM.” –Romelia Flores

My personal response was that it’s a difficult task to keep up with technology, so it’s important to ensure technology plays a key role in the education of our future engineers.

It’s about kids, it’s about getting them excited to learn about STEM. What better way than providing hands-on experiences at Earth Day Texas to showcase technologies to educate our children and help the environment at the same time?


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Romelia Flores is one of IBM’s top 500 technical executives, earning the titles of IBM Distinguished Engineer in 2008 and IBM Master Inventor in 2009. She has collaborated with some of IBM’(...)

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