THE BLOG

Where Will Your STEM Education Take You?

12/09/2010 01:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So there I was, standing naked in a parking lot in Los Angeles in the rain -- on a Discovery Channel reality program called The Colony. How did I get there? Believe it or not, it all began with my love of science technology, engineering and math (STEM).

It all stated as I was growing up in the 1960s in Houston. I was completely surrounded by the space craze. I vividly remember sitting in the living room as a 10-year-old and watching the moon landing with my family. I decided then and there I was going to study engineering... and I'm really glad I did.

I ended up studying chip design at MIT, which led to a job at IBM. In my 30-year career at IBM I've had the chance to use my math and science skills to make chips like those used in the Playstation, Xbox and the Wii. Now I'm an IBM Fellow figuring how to use the chips we build to save electricity and manage water as part of our Smarter Planet initiative.

So how did that lead me to being naked in the rain in that parking lot scene in Los Angeles?

Well, even though I was having fun and doing well at IBM, it bugged me that fewer kids were going in to engineering. I wanted to find a way to spark the same love of science, math and engineering in today's kids that the space program of the 1960s did in me.

That's what got me started volunteering in local schools. Pretty soon I was doing a mad science shtick in schools all over the country. I noticed is that students were starting to connect the idea that fixing the world's environmental, sustainability and energy problems was going to require people with science and math skills. All of a sudden I started to get pull where I once had to push.

It was about that time that I got a call from a casting agency in Hollywood about The Colony. I jumped at the chance to share my love of engineering and demonstrate sustainable science on TV. My co-Colonists and I got to show folks how to apply engineering and science concepts to survival situations. We did this while living in a dirty old warehouse for 58 days surviving on river water and rat meat. Showering meant standing out in the rain, which is how I came to be in that particular parking lot.

So that's where my STEM education has taken me; from "one small step for man" to a parking lot in Los Angeles.