Politico: BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Megan Smith, CEO of shift7 and former U.S. chief technology officer

Megan Smith is pictured. | Courtesy of Makers.com

Megan Smith is pictured. | Courtesy of Makers.com

How/where are you celebrating your birthday and with whom? “Having fun with my family and a few friends, we may go up to an event at President Lincoln’s cottage.”

How did you get your start in your career? “Our public magnet school in Buffalo, N.Y., had little budget but genius entrepreneurial teachers who established mandatory science fair participation — causing all students to have active hands-on STEM experiences as part of class, working on real-world challenges that were of personal interest (vs. projects assigned where the answers were already known). At the time President Carter was putting solar panels on the White House and structuring the Department of Energy for the green energy future ahead. Through research guided by our teachers, I learned green energy principles from local library books and materials from Pueblo, Colo. (the government publishing office — before the internet!). From 8th grade through senior year this teaching approach built my confidence in STEM, and I had fun designing and building various solar, wind, phase-change storage and greenhouse solutions. I’m grateful our teachers made sure we didn’t feel STEM was intimidating, only for some people, or boring (STEM for All!). Imagine the social, environmental and economic solutions our youth could work on ‘solving hometown challenges for their homework’ during the school day! Fortunately wonderful approaches already exist in some classrooms nationally that can be scaled.”

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