Real STEM. Real Life.

JASON National Educators' Virtual Conference

July 7-8, 2021


This year’s theme: Real STEM. Real Life. celebrates our mission and the work our educators do everyday to connect students to real-world STEM phenomena and help them recognize the relevance of STEM in their lives. Participants will be able to choose from a variety of keynote events and breakout sessions including virtual “field trips”, panels and sharing of best practices – up to five sessions each day.  Featured guests include experts from NASA, UScellular, The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), and many more STEM professionals.

Keynote Speakers

From Environmental Stewardship to Entrepreneurship:
The Importance of Developing the Next Generation of STEMpreneurs

Dr. Melanie Harrison Okoro

Chief Executive Officer / Founder
Eco-Alpha Environmental & Engineering Services

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About Keynote
Former NOAA Scientist turned entrepreneur, Dr. Melanie Okoro, discusses her transition from environmental scientist to entrepreneurship, shares actionable advice on how to inspire the next generation of STEMpreneurs, and the vanguard role of educators as stewards in empowering the communities they serve. 

About Dr. Melanie Harrison Okoro
Melanie Harrison Okoro is a marine estuarine and environmental scientist. She is the founder, CEO, and principal of Eco-Alpha Environmental & Engineering Services. Okoro focuses on environmental aquatic biogeochemistry, professional natural resource management, and STEM diversity initiatives. She is the first African-American women early-career scientist to serve on the Council of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

With a PhD in environmental science from the University of Maryland, Okoro was an environmental scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for 10 years where she focused on water pollution and invasive species. She is no stranger to public outreach, speaking frequently on the threat climate change poses to endangered species and water quality.

From Chasing Tornadoes to Driving Mars Rovers: A Retrospective

Keri Bean

MSL Rover Planner Deputy Team Lead
2020 Helicopter Integration Engineer

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About Keynote
Keri Bean will retrace her journey from a weather obsessed kid to leading the Mars rover drivers of Curiosity and helping fly the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.

About Keri Bean
Keri Bean is a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She is the deputy lead Rover Planner (aka Mars rover driver) for the Curiosity rover and is a Helicopter Integration Engineer for the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. She was one of the Mars rover Opportunity’s final engineers. She has also worked on the Spirit Mars rover, Phoenix Mars lander, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Dawn, NEAScout, and Psyche missions to asteroids. She got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University in meteorology, with her focus on studying the weather on Mars. Her hobbies mostly center around Star Wars, as she is an active member of the R2-D2 Builder’s Club and cosplays with the Rebel Legion.

Connected Storm Sanctuary – Telecom in Natural Disasters

Dr. Robert Jakubek

VP Engineering and Network Operations

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About Keynote
Learn how the 4th largest telecom provider in the US manages its award winning cellular network during and after natural disasters to ensure the best experience for customer connectivity.  In times of crisis, wireless connectivity is more important than ever: to ensure first responders can effectively keep people safe and so families and communities can stay connected to each other.

About Dr. Robert Jakubek
As vice president of engineering and network operations for UScellular, Robert is responsible for ensuring the superior quality of UScellular’s high-speed network so that customers have the world’s best wireless experience. Jakubek also leads engineering teams at all of UScellular’s network operations centers across the country. Jakubek joined UScellular in 1993, and prior to his current position he served in a variety of engineering leadership positions at UScellular. In those positions, Jakubek led engineering teams to ensure that UScellular’s high-quality network provided an exceptional wireless experience for customers. Jakubek has a doctorate degree in computer science from Colorado Technical University, a master’s degree in business administration from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Management from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. He is a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery as well as the I.E.E.E. He resides in the Chicagoland area with his wife.

Creating “A New Normal” for STEM Education with Justice for All Students: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Systemic Racism

Okhee Lee

Professor, NYU, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Todd Campbell

Department head of Curriculum Instruction, Professor of Science Education
Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

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About Keynote
The presentation proposes an instructional framework that STEM education, by foregrounding justice and capitalizing on new advances in STEM disciplines, could offer solutions to systematic racism. Specifically, the instructional framework leverages data science, computer science, and multidisciplinary convergence of STEM disciplines, which have become key to finding solutions to the pandemic. By harnessing the affordances of new advances in STEM disciplines to address systemic racism, the instructional framework presents one approach to creating “a new normal” for STEM education with justice for all students. The COVID-19 pandemic offers an unprecedented context to engage all students in societally relevant problems. During the presentation, participants navigate data sources and review our science lessons as an example of our instructional framework.

About Okhee Lee
Okhee Lee is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. Her research involves integrating science, language, and computational thinking with a focus on English learners. Her latest research addresses COVID-19 and systemic racism. She was a member of the NGSS writing team and served as leader for the NGSS Diversity and Equity Team. She was also a member of the Steering Committee for the Understanding Language Initiative at Stanford University. She became a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in 2009, received the Distinguished Career Contribution Award from the AERA Scholars of Color in Education in 2003, the Innovations in Research on Equity and Social Justice in Teacher Education Award from the AERA Division K Teaching and Teacher Education in 2019, and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Distinguished Service to Science Education Award in 2020.

About Todd Campbell
Todd Campbell is the department head of Curriculum and Instruction and a professor of science education in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on cultivating imaginative and equitable representations of STEM. In formal science learning environments, he works with pre-service and in-service science teachers and leaders to collaboratively promote students’ use of modeling as an anchoring epistemic practice in making sense of phenomena. In informal science learning environments, he engages in the iterative design of informal learning spaces and equity focused STEM identity.

Virtual Field Trips

Wednesday, July 7

Mosquitoes can be more than a nuisance, they also transmit diseases. Join HCPH MVCD on a tour of vector control operations from mosquito collections and testing for mosquito-borne diseases in local mosquito populations to working with the community. Entomologists, Virologists, Researchers and Educators will provide information and demonstrations for this informative look behind the scenes.

Thursday, July 8

Located in Portland, Oregon, Bob’s Metals Inc. has been processing scrap metal since 1983.  Bob’s Metal’s General Manager, Peter Van Houten, along with Bob’s Metals metal buyer, Justin Cannon, will take us on a virtual tour of their facility, sharing videos of how metal is processed from burning, shearing, shredding, bailing to smelting of scrap metal in the process of transitioning scrap into raw material as part of the material product life cycle. This session will also include a sneak preview of this year’s Annual Recycling Contest!