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“STEM Gives Kids Superpowers – Channel Their Curiosity!”

April 2, 2014

“STEM Gives Kids Superpowers – Channel Their Curiosity!”

That was the main message from Dwolla founder & CEO, Ben Milne, as he addressed more than 500 educators, community and business leaders at last week’s Iowa STEM conference in Des Moines. In three short years, Iowa’s leaders have mobilized and through public/private partnerships, implemented initiatives to focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in schools.

Co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Vermeer CEO, Mary Andringa, Iowa’s STEM efforts have garnered national attention among educational leaders and policy wonks in D.C. To date more than 3,000 Iowa classrooms have implemented STEM programs, the school districts have leveraged nearly $2 million in state and federal grants for training and awareness of STEM among Iowans has increased from 26% in 2012 to 41% in 2013.

The education push has been one of the most successful bipartisan initiatives in Iowa. “We’re a state that collaborates and makes things happen,” said Mary Andringa, CEO, Vermeer Corporation. Cedar Falls-native and Forbes’ 2012 class of “30 Under 30,” Ben Milne started out tinkering with old electronics at his grandparent’s house and started his first business at the age of 18.

“I was curious and enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together,” said Milne. “My Iowa education gave me the tools, but I didn’t learn how to channel them into action until later in life.” One of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Finance,” Dwolla aims to build the ideal way to move money quickly, safely and with minimal fees.

With 45 employees in downtown Des Moines, the e-commerce startup now serves more small businesses than Starbucks has locations. “STEM education is imperative and teachers are the link,” said Milne. “Remember, it doesn’t do any good unless students can apply their knowledge, skills and curiosity and put it to work for someone else to create value.” -Kathy A., IEDA Marketing Team



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