Ricardo Negron is Chief of the Domestic Partnering Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and head of all AFRL science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education activities.
Since 2006, he has pioneered innovative applications of federal statutes to forge tactical STEM partnerships, played a critical role in developing an outreach network that founded and maintains the Dayton Regional STEM School and the Dayton Regional STEM Center, secured more than $7 million to fund STEM programs, and been designated as the STEM outreach coordinator for the entire U.S. Air Force.
Relying on his previous STEM experience and extensive outreach network, Negron co-founded EDvention, a not-for-profit whose mission was to develop the STEM talent needed to propel regional growth. Negron’s grassroots role in EDvention presented another opportunity in 2007 when the Ohio legislature allotted funds for five STEM schools. Negron determined that the technology transfer statutes would allow AFRL to serve as the school’s technology partner. He then assisted partners Wright State University (WSU) and EDvention with a proposal to locate one of the schools in the Dayton region.
The Dayton Regional STEM School opened its doors to a class of 92 ninth graders in August 2009. Negron helped develop a funding strategy to ensure the school’s long-term viability. He has also taken an active role in the staffing and continued growth of the school. In 2010, the school expanded to serve grades 8, 9, and 10. In fall 2011, only two years into its existence, the school moved to a larger location to accommodate the expanding enrollment in grades 7-11. The program is on track to off er a full combined middle school and high school campus, grades 6-12, next fall, and will graduate its first class of seniors in spring 2013.
The Dayton STEM Center’s approach to collaborative curriculum development and professional training sets it well apart from traditional piecemeal STEM education. Th e curriculum is created by STEM Fellows, who include AFRL scientists and engineers, higher education professors, teachers from grades K-12, and industry scientists who work together to create inquiry-based, project-based lessons that encourage students to struggle, explore, and experiment with solutions.
In the first year, nearly 70 lessons were created to national and international academic standards, hundreds of teachers honed their skills in STEM training workshops, and several dozen principals and superintendents participated in STEM overview sessions. Th e program was off and running to rave reviews and excellent educator feedback, and more than 11,000 students were impacted by the STEM Center’s activities.