05/10/2013 11:30 am ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

It All STEMs From a Big Idea

I am still on cloud nine after attending the TEDx Rock Creek Park Conference last week titled 'The Hero's Journey.' The conference put on by wonderful leader Alison Whitmire of C-Lever and the hundreds of volunteers who stepped up to create an 8 hour space that was electric for 300 attendees.

It was in a historic theater in Old Town Alexandria and was one of the most memorable days I've had in a long time.

What I love about the TED model, and I really encourage you to attend one in your community, is the power of an idea. The ideas shared about life, education, health, technology were so rich I couldn't find a favorite. One person Scott DiGiammarino spoke on the power the movies have on us as we process our own Hero's journey, another on building America's youth skills without pills, and one speaker blew me away with her story of being a child bride. I love that people go up and share a lifetime of thinking and research in 15 minutes. They are there to share and learn. It's all about the idea and caring enough to share ideas with an audience and not for commercial gain.

Thinking back to my career in entrepreneurship education and now how we build a workforce with the skills needed to compete (the STEM Pipeline), I think a lot about education, workforce development, and America's competitiveness.

The beginning of all Hero's Journeys is an IDEA. IDEAS come obviously from creative thinking and brains. Let's think of the idea as a foundation of the house.

The first floor is the skills we and our K - 16 education system teach our children so they can blossom great ideas and their best ideas into opportunity . The passion to invent, the math to calculate, the technology to build, the big dream to change the world.

Building a pipeline with these skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) moves us to the second floor where a young person can use these skills and launch a company (entrepreneur) or work for someone else (employee). I was just over seeing my friend Donna Harris and Mrim Bouta at Tech Incubators 1776 and and I was blown away by so many new tech companies blossoming there.

The innovation, the initiative, so many people joining the startup scenes in DC, North Carolina, Austin, New York, Boston, Silicon Valley -- STEM Entrepreneurs I call them-- are using these skills, and hiring young people with these skills(STEM Workforce). They are changing the business world, they are creating jobs, they are uber resilient. One always wonders if you hear the next BIG IDEA... the next TED Talk, the next Facebook or Apple in the making. The hero who will create 100 or 100,000 more jobs.

People will GET Ideas, GIVE Ideas, and GROW Ideas as they continue on their Hero's journey. They will take on big challenges, leave what is comfortable, ride the highs and lows, and come back 'home' to teach others as so many did at TEDx Rock Creek and innovate the new American and Global economy.

Julie Kantor is the Chief Partnership Officer for, The 'one stop' convening force for STEM education and careers.