MSOE celebrates grand opening of We Energies STEM Center
Partnership with We Energies, Rockwell Automation, American Family Insurance and Northwestern Mutual creates dynamic hub for STEM education
Milwaukee School of Engineering will celebrate the opening of the We Energies STEM Center at MSOE on Wednesday, Sept. 22. The new center is the premier STEM destination in Milwaukee for K-12 students and home to all of MSOE’s STEM outreach efforts. Created in partnership with We Energies, Rockwell Automation, American Family Insurance, and Northwestern Mutual, the STEM Center enables students to have access to resources, mentoring, and hands-on, experience-based learning. The 10,000-square-foot STEM space features a flexible technology studio, design and development lab, machine tooling area, and a FIRST Robotics playing field for teams to practice on a regulation field before they compete. Tools, resources, mentors, and inclusive programming offer endless opportunities for Milwaukee’s youth to explore, create, and get hooked on STEM. “In 2017, MSOE made a strategic investment in STEM outreach by establishing a dedicated department to grow, sustain and develop a comprehensive STEM pipeline for all students in Milwaukee and beyond. Since then, the number of students who have participated in our programs has more than quadrupled. We have reached more than 15,000 students from 150 K-12 schools,” said Dr. John Walz, MSOE president. “The We Energies STEM Center at MSOE is a game-changer and we are grateful to have the support of We Energies, Rockwell Automation, American Family, and Northwestern Mutual, among others.” MSOE and its industry partners are committed to building on this success and reaching even more students from a variety of backgrounds. The center has enabled MSOE to continue to grow its in-house programming while providing unique opportunities to collaborate on programs with K-12 schools, local companies, community groups, and organizations. The We Energies STEM Center at MSOE is located at ground level on the northern side of Pamela and Hermann Viets Field, 1444 N. Water St. We Energies, Rockwell Automation, American Family, and Northwestern Mutual each bring a unique contribution to the STEM center project, all to support the shared goal of providing opportunities to bring together schools, local companies, community groups, and organizations to create impactful, inclusive programming. The purpose is to provide an accessible, dedicated space for all K-12 students to explore, create and define their future in STEM. We Energies is creating an opportunity that enables students from any school—public, private, charter, and homeschool—to have access to hands-on, one-of-a-kind STEM experiences. “Education is the critical catalyst for the communities we serve and STEM feeds and fuels everything we do as a company. This facility will provide critical hands-on learning opportunities and open avenues for students to participate in programs they may not otherwise have access to,” said Kevin Fletcher, president, and CEO of We Energies parent corporation WEC Energy Group, and MSOE Regent. “We’re excited to partner with MSOE to engage and grow future leaders who will shape not only the energy industry but also our world.”
Rockwell Automation is making it possible for MSOE to continue to support and expand the opportunities for all students to participate in STEM programs. MSOE students, alumni, and partners who mentor and support FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) teams have a dedicated place to enable all students to “go pro” in STEM through FIRST. Local teams have access to dedicated storage space, tools, and work equipment. The Rockwell Automation-sponsored FIRST Robotics development zone includes space for a 1,500-square-foot playing field area where teams have plenty of space to test their designs and practice for competitions. The center is an opportunity to decrease barriers, and give students access to resources they need to be successful in their STEM-related extracurricular activities. “At Rockwell Automation we believe in expanding human possibility. In our communities we make investments in students who will be the future makers, builders, and innovators,” said Patricia Contreras, Rockwell Automation vice president of global public affairs. “Our commitment to address both the opportunity and belief gaps for underrepresented students starts with our financial investments amplified by employee mentorship in our global headquarters, here in Milwaukee. Through the STEM Center, the power of innovation + technology + mentorship will inspire young minds. We know this partnership with MSOE will empower and inspire students to make the impossible possible.” Employment in STEM-related jobs is expected to grow at 16% in the United States, far outpacing all other employment fields. In addition, jobs in STEM fields earn on average 10% more than jobs with similar education requirements. At the same time, there is a critical need for a more diverse workforce. Diversity and inclusion are an intentional and integrated part of the strategy for the STEM Center to truly empower and support all students in their exploration of STEM futures. To support this, American Family is actively building a pipeline where all students have an equal opportunity to explore, engage and succeed in STEM fields, specifically in tech fields. American Family brings expertise, guidance and support to programs ranging from artificial intelligence to coding for students of all ages. “American Family is committed to Milwaukee, and we’re proud to partner with and support MSOE and its passion to expand STEM education,” said Jim Buchheim, American Family community and social impact officer. “This center provides a tremendous opportunity for a diverse group of students to participate in high-quality tech learning and prepare for successful STEM careers.” “Northwestern Mutual’s investment in the MSOE STEM Center programming will bring high-quality tech learning to students and educators from our partner schools, helping ensure that all students are provided the opportunity to engage in first-class STEM education,” said Stig Haagensen, Northwestern Mutual technology chief operations officer. “We are committed to growing the region’s STEM ecosystem and addressing disparities in education to close achievement gaps. We see the STEM Center as a destination to help make this happen and we’re proud to be partnering with other leaders in our community to do this critical work.”
The We Energies STEM Center at MSOE opened in fall 2020 and has been offering in-person and virtual STEM programs throughout the pandemic. Staff, faculty, K-12 educators, community, and corporate partners are committed to continue operating the center following health guidelines and looks forward to a strong future of STEM education. Ramlow/Stein Architecture + Interiors was the project developer and Catalyst Construction was the construction manager. Additionally, Milwaukee Tool agreed to gift tools to help outfit the new STEM Center. MSOE Corporation member Scott Haag and his wife Linda have also made a gift in support of this project.