Devon, Bedlam Teams Promote STEM Education

The Devon Energy Corp. has long been among those emphasizing that Oklahoma needs more scientists and engineers and technologists if the state is going to compete now and in the future.

That is why the company has tapped into the energy of the two Bedlam rivals to encourage students and faculties at the campuses of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to stress so-called “STEM” education programs.

STEM is the acronym for Scientific, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

A few days ago, Rick Muriel, president and chief executive officer of Devon Energy, introduced  SportsLabs, a five-year, multi-faceted partnership with the Bedlam rival schools.

With the program, students with interests in becoming scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians are encouraged to pursue their dreams.

Hundreds filled the Devon Tower rotunda last week as the presidents of the rival schools (Joseph Harroz Jr. of the University of Oklahoma and Dr. Kaysee Shrum of Oklahoma State), as well as well as athletic directors Chad Weiberg (OSU) and Joe Castiglione (OU), introduced the project.

“Exposure is the gateway to inspiration,” Dr. Shrum said.

Engage Learning, a Norman-based non-profit organization, will run SportsLabs.

Engage Learning seeks to empower students through project-based, STEM-intensive programs.

“STEM education, we’ve got a real issue in our state that we’ve got to address,” Mr. Harroz said.  “And it’s nationwide, but particularly in Oklahoma.   We’ve got to get more STEM-educated students at the K-12 levels prepared to go to college.

“As comprehensive research universities, when they arrive, we have the programs for them.  But the preparation, K through 12, and having that interest, it forms at a really young age.”

OU and OSU athletes and events part of plan to aid STEM

Pregame mini SportsLabs will be held at fan fests during football, basketball and other selected games on each campus.  Half-day educational workshops will take place post-season on each campus with several of the schools’ teams.  And SportsLabs will travel to Oklahoma communities throughout the year to expose even more students to the science behind their favorite sports.

“We know young sports fans look up to their favorite college athletes and strive to emulate their pathways to success,” Weiberg said.  “Young sports fans get to see their role models on the field, court or track as athletes, but rarely get to see or hear about them as students.  By Devon involving our student-athletes like this, children of all ages can see their role models not only studying science or math but using science and math in real-world applications that can help them improve their athletic skills.”

SportsLabs will contain a name, image and likeness component–Devon’s commitment includes funding for the athletes’ participation, as well as Engage Learning.

“I went to college on a softball scholarship, and a professor helped me see the opportunities of medical school, so, I understand the power of combining sports and science,” Dr. Shrum said.

“When we bring the two together, more children will understand the games and activities they love can lead them into exciting careers, even if they never play competitive sports.”

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