published Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Comcast debuts educational STEM channel in Chattanooga


Coinciding with a new STEM On Demand channel here, Comcast and the local STEM hub will offer two video contests for students.

The STEM Regional Student Video Contest will offer prizes up to $1,000 for four-minute videos submitted by April 30. K-12 students are challenged to show how STEM relates to their school and future careers. More information is available at

The Young Scientist Challenge is a national competition offering a top prize of $25,000. Students in grades five through eight may submit a one- to two-minute video showing the science behind how they'd solve an everyday problem. The deadline is April 23, and more information is available at

Even a couch potato can jump on the STEM bandwagon.

Officials envision that a new television channel will help parents, teachers and students alike further the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math.

Hamilton County opened a STEM magnet school this fall with financial and in-kind support of area nonprofit agencies and businesses. And, in one of the latest business contributions, Comcast will debut a new On Demand STEM channel in April that's stocked with custom, locally created content.

While it's entirely educationally based, the Innovate Education Channel isn't aimed at reaching students in the classroom, but rather being available at all hours of the day.

Students can access lessons and tutorials at their leisure from their living rooms. This could be of particular help to struggling students or those who just need a review of classroom lessons.

Organizers hope it will motivate teachers to move more toward a "flipped classroom" model, in which teachers create videos or online content that students review before going to class, opening up class time for applying and mastering concepts.

"We're really coming to a place where educators need to get comfortable creating content that supports what's happening in the classroom," said Tracey Carisch, director of Hamilton County's STEM hub, "because that's the way kids are absorbing information now."

Parents may want to flip through some of the On Demand videos, too, because it can help them work with their children on math and science homework or projects -- teachers on the tube can give parents the same refresher as students.

"Parents don't want to look stupid in front of their kids," said Jim Weigert, vice president and general manager of Comcast Chattanooga.

The hope is that the channel not only will show students and parents why STEM concepts are increasingly crucial, Weigert said, but also how to master them.

Comcast is one of about 50 businesses supporting the regional effort through money, volunteer hours or other in-kind contributions. And while companies like Comcast, Volkswagen and Wacker are obvious fits, Carisch said it's key that students and parents know the universal nature of science, math and technology skills.

"The fact of the matter is, STEM is everywhere," she said. "And we need to help kids understand that jobs that they don't even realize are STEM."

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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