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Convergence is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. We talk about it quite a bit at the Research Triangle Foundation, where we’re currently trying to plan a tremendous space for tens of thousands of people from all walks of life – the Park Center development. The term means different things to different people. I like to look at it as the intentional gathering of people in a setting that will allow them all the opportunity to learn and grow, both through interaction with each other and inspiration from the setting and content. I love the challenge of continuously finding new ways to do just that.

The US2020 RTP program, which serves as the STEM outreach arm of the Foundation, feeds off of the concept of convergence and its application to education, industry, and many other STEM stakeholders in the region. We try to develop a diverse menu of convergence points for these entities, and especially the students who ultimately stand to gain from this work. Sometimes that comes through the highlighting of existing work but in most cases it is the application of new ideas.

It was in this spirit that the STEMmys were born. We wanted to see a collection of people and the stories they bring all get recognized in a special way. Sure – there are other STEM awards ceremonies and events out there. We’re not inventing the wheel here. But what we are doing is taking advantage of the view we’ve appreciated of the Triangle STEM community over these last couple years and doing our part to make sure that a handful of the most achieved members of that community get celebrated for what they’ve done.

So for the last few months we’ve been soliciting nominations, recruiting judges, and planning for a first-of-its-kind event that would shine light on winners from eight different categories across the STEM community. On Wednesday, May 25th, we will converge to do just that – to bring together the people who have helped to build this program and see who has been deemed worthy of receiving this inaugural batch of Golden Gear awards.

One of the tough parts of hosting an event like this is the obvious truth you have to face going in – that there will be a number of deserving candidates who ultimately won’t be recognized. For the many who fit that description, I offer up our gratitude for the work you do, often out of the goodness of your heart and beyond your call of duty. We have a vibrant STEM community here in the Triangle, and that would not be possible without the efforts of so many contributors.

This event promises to be special for many reasons. From companies who engage their employees in outreach in progressive and meaningful ways to students and schools who go above and beyond to enhance what a STEM education truly is, we will see a true scattering of the many stars in this STEM galaxy. We will also be recognizing our champions in higher education and the world of youth-serving nonprofits.

Our ultimate goal is to make the Triangle a leader in STEM outreach – one the rest of the nation can learn from. We proudly stand beside the many others who share that vision and dedicate ourselves to the hard work needed to make that goal a reality. This celebration serves as another step on that path. I know the people in attendance that night will get a chance to appreciate this special example of convergence in a very unique, and I hope they leave it as inspired as I do to further our common cause.


The event will be live streamed on May 25th, and we will be live tweeting throughout the night. Follow us at @STEMinthePark.

Brett Brenton

Brett Brenton is a former public educator now serving as Senior Director of Programs for the Research Triangle Foundation.  He is also a member of the Constructive Learning Design steering committee.