A few years ago, if you had asked my high school student if he thought learning mathematics and statistics was important, his answer would have lacked passion. However, if you had turned off the television while he was watching SportsCenter, depriving him of statistics about each sports team and each player, the passion would have been tangible as he lunged for the remote.
Clearly, understanding and applying statistics are critical skills for enjoying sports and for building good teams in the fantasy football draft. So how do you instill that “jump off the couch and grab the remote” fervor into something that makes students, male and female, jump up and grab knowledge in the classroom?
Easy answer: Great teachers who have the resources they need with which to engage in unique and intriguing ways. These are the individuals who capture imagination, making science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) more relevant to real life than anything students might realize from SportsCenter (with the possible exception of being able to build a solid fantasy team).
Unfortunately, while teachers are the foundation of the education team, they don’t negotiate multi-million dollar contracts or pull down huge signing bonuses, and there isn’t a TV show about their performance that glorifies the classroom.
Nevertheless, the challenge for teachers is to create an environment that does for education what SportsCenter does for sports. Advancing the STEM disciplines requires motivating active learners who embrace the hard work and enthusiastically commit the time needed to be successful. Students thrive in a setting where they can understand the relevance of what they are learning. Today, many options exist to enhance learning, but the cost for teachers to bring new technologies into the classroom can be prohibitive.
The AFCEA Educational Foundation understands that need and is helping teachers as they build the bench for STEM. Not only does the Educational Foundation provide STEM scholarships to future teachers, but it also supports the teachers after graduation for three years with funds to help them equip their classrooms.
To bring attention to this teaching need and to raise funds to support more teachers, the Educational Foundation launched Cycle for STEM this year. By sponsoring a 335-mile bike ride, AFCEA moved the STEM message across the countryside from Pittsburgh to D.C., drawing attention to the cause with the determination, stamina and commitment that are critical for any team’s success. Not only was more than $25,000 raised in the process, but also, at each stop along the ride, flyers were handed out and signs waved advancing the cause and promoting the names of the many generous corporate sponsors.
Game Week Statistics on the Inaugural Ride
The 2013 ride featured an international team (eight from the United States, one from Australia and one from the United Kingdom) who went the distance for the full six days.
The complete rider demographics included five AFCEA staff, five riders representing five different AFCEA chapters and five day-riders.
The riders were kept strong and safe by four hardworking people on the support team that produced a half million enthusiastic rings of the cowbell.
The riders on the full trip were joined on Day One by two day-riders from Carnegie Mellon University and on Day Six by two day-riders from the D.C. area, one of whom is the CIO of the U.S. Marine Corps. The ride finished at Georgetown University at perhaps the highest point on campus. Starting with Carnegie Mellon riders and ending at Georgetown drove home that this ride was about education. These are two premier universities, with strong STEM programs, and it was an honor to have them bookend the ride for us.
Over the six days, the riders went across numerous bridges; traveled into four tunnels, one over a half-mile long; rode on two historical paths; took one ferry two times; traveled through four states and the District of Columbia; stayed in four college towns; and despite four days of rain and three days of mud, needed only minor bike adjustments along the way. The team also took 10 bikes and 10 people through a car wash in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a first for the riders and the car wash company.
The team ate lunch at five eclectic local restaurants in small towns along the way, where it was enthusiastically welcomed, mud and all. For dinner, the team consumed 13 pizzas (13 people) in Hancock, Maryland; four pans of homemade lasagna courtesy of Sue and Al Mink in Leesburg, Virginia; one delicious dinner at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, West Virginia; one dinner at a local Greek restaurant days before it was to close as the 80-year-old owners retired; and one diner dinner where carb loading went to a new level. At the end of the ride, after a gathering of 40 supporters cheered the team to the finish line, there was a celebration at Georgetown with boxed lunches and beverages for all.
Along the trail, the team stayed at six different hotels, representing the complete spectrum of hotel property styles.
During the actual ride, the riding team went through:
1 huge jar peanut butter
1 large jar strawberry jelly (with grape jelly in reserve)
10 gallons of water
72 bottles of water
64 bottles of Gatorade/Powerade
60 granola bars or equivalent
5 rolls of paper towels
10 stalks of organic celery
3 bags of potato chips
2 bags of pretzels
1 bottle of Aleve
At least 2 bottles of chain lube
1 can of cooking spray
Despite the amount of calories consumed this week, approximately 25,000 calories were burned per rider.
An additional $110 in donations was added to the STEM ride total by the riders as they all participated in the nightly issuing of “fines” for breaking any of the more than 90 light-hearted and completely capricious rules of the ride, including everyone’s favorite, Rule 5, which translates to No Whining.
In addition to the $25,000 raised for STEM as a total, the donations brought in by each of the riders were above expectations. All riders exceeded the minimum goal of $500 by a significant amount despite only a short time to promote the ride.
Raising money to ride might seem like an intimidating prospect when you first look at it as a dollar figure, but you quickly find out how many people realize how important this cause is and are willing to stand behind you and support your ride and support STEM education. And not only that, it’s fun to network with folks and tell them about what you’re doing and what the cause means for our future!
Then, when it comes to completing the ride itself, knowing that you’re cycling for not only your own personal sense of accomplishment, but also for a greater cause and for the people who have supported you really pushes you to keep counting down the miles on a daily basis.
If you have not yet decided to join us next year, see the stories and pictures on the rest of this blog for a glimpse of what the ride was like and how it felt to be a member of this first Cycle for STEM team.
As for the tryout process, congratulations, you just made the team!
You have a lot of time to train; the team has experience with the trail; the government has no logical reason to be closed in July; the weather has to be better than this year; and regardless of your bike riding skills, your capabilities or the time you can commitment, there is a place for you on the team.
Email our recruiters for Cycle for STEM
It has been a great experience being part of this team, in the planning, the implementation, the riding and the documentation of all the days on the trail. I look forward to seeing the team again for next year’s ride, July 13 through the 19th, 2014, and hope to meet a lot of new friends when we start our second year of Cycle for STEM.
From Tobey Jackson
- Padded bike shorts are made for a reason. I will be using them next time.
- Celery breaks down lactic acid buildup. Think anyone will notice if I eat a few stalks at the gym in between squat sets?
- Never underestimate the power of good conversation. It takes your mind off counting down the miles.
- Cycling is therapeutic. Until you realize that you might have eaten a bug.
- Jumping tree limbs is fun. Thanks, Al!
- 335 miles is no joke. On pavement it would be tough enough, but on gravel/leaves/mud/sand it would be grueling.
- Jennifer is the best encourager ever.
- we talk a lot about teamwork, but I really saw it in action today. Was so impressed that 2 riders went back to help Bev get up the last very steep hill to the finish line.
- I can’t wait to do the full ride next year!
- what started out as an idea among friends (probably over beers) turned into a very successful fundraiser for scholarships. I am so proud of all the riders and their support team!
From Bev Cooper
I was worried about being the only female on the ride, but I quickly learned that it had its advantage. No restroom line. However, I also learned that this week there were no restrooms.
Car washes are not just for cars.
Celery is not a negotiation.
Terry Rogers can write and blog as well, or better, than I can. Unfortunately, I found that out the end of the week, not the beginning.
Don’t trust Terry’s math.
One mile at a time, one leg at a time, one day at a time, and before you know it, you have accomplished more than you even knew you set out to do.
From Terry Rogers
Never, ever, underestimate the overall AFCEA team. From the first notes of encouragement to riding up to that finish line and seeing the turnout was amazing. Thanks to our leadership for coming out…..and thanks to everybody who participated and made this idea (that yes, was hatched over beers :) ) into what it became.
There’s a lot of moving parts to hotwash out and there will be ways to change/tweak what we did this year. But what we cannot change, and I would never want to change, is the energy and the family feeling that I experienced this week. I started the week with several great friends, some co-workers, and some folks I was looking forward to getting to know. I ended it with friends-for-life and memories that will never, ever fade away.
If any others want to share their Lessons Learned, please submit a blog post or send an email to email@example.com, and I will add to this list.