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49ers Foundation & Beyond Sport Tackle STEM Education Crisis at Second ‘Beyond Innovation’ Event

The San Francisco 49ers Foundation and social change through sport pioneer Beyond Sport held the second installment of the ‘Beyond Innovation’ summit from May 22-23 at Levi’s® Stadium. Two hundred global leaders from across the sports, tech, non-profit, education, business, entertainment and development landscape, attended the unique event which focuses on creating innovative cross-sector partnerships that use the global appeal of sport – especially on young people – and its ideals, to advance STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. With 2.8 million STEM jobs expected to go unfilled this year alone, the Beyond Innovation delegates collaborated on creative solutions and actions to help prevent the predicted shortfall of 85 million skilled jobs in the global economy by 2020.

Special guest, Dr. Mae Jemison -- former NASA astronaut and the first woman of color to go into space -- captivated the audience with her opening keynote reminding us that we already have enough knowledge to solve many of the world’s problems. The renowned physician, engineer, social scientist, entrepreneur and educator stated that science literacy is vital and that “hands on, hearts on, minds on” is “the best way to teach STEM.” As “earthlings,” we all have a responsibility to be beneficial to society as we are all connected. Following her remarks, Dr. Jemison had a surprise reunion with Dan Anisman, a man whose life she saved 35 years ago during their time together with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone. Attending the event with the Special Olympics delegates, Mr. Anisman poignantly thanked her.

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49ers EDU Director and event emcee, Jesse Lovejoy, then started the sessions which covered a diverse array of topics, including: cutting edge developments in sports and tech; how the education sector is using tech; opportunities and cautions in social responsibility and diversity and inclusion; the importance of private-public partnerships; and real-life examples of successful sport and STEM partnerships. Education sector attendees also provided valuable feedback direct from the classroom, noting that teachers consistently relayed that their main barriers were comfort with technology and access to it. With this generation consuming information in entirely different ways from previous generations, and with teachers playing such a critical front-line role, the insights were indispensable to innovating ways to engage students in STEM. Delegates also had the opportunity to become students of sport science themselves during a hands-on session in the 49ers Discovery Lab.

“Beyond Innovation is not just a conference, it’s a place for commitment to leadership and social change,” said Nick Keller, Founder and President, Beyond Sport. The growth and action we’ve seen since last year is rewarding, and we were pleased to partner with the 49ers Foundation again to innovate ways to engage kids in STEM. We are seeing a growing call for the use of sport in education. Kids are naturally curious about the world around them and using sport’s popularity and the life skills it teaches, we can battle apathy for subjects that are perceived to be less appealing.”

“The second installment of Beyond Innovation was an overwhelming success, and our partners at Beyond Sport helped the 49ers Foundation reignite the fire inside of countless key decision-makers working towards elevating youth interest in STEM through the power of sport,” said 49ers Foundation Executive Director Justin Prettyman. “We look forward to our continued efforts on the Sport and STEM Alliance.”

The day before, the San Francisco 49ers Foundation hosted nearly 50 students from the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute for a mini Hack Challenge at Levi’s Stadium. The challenge – which tasked students of finding innovative ways to attract and retain new audiences to football – was spearheaded by Chelsea Foundation Head of Education and Beyond Innovation speaker Matt Mead. The activation, which was sponsored by SAP and had SAP employees serve as student mentors, was part of 49ers EDU’s continued partnership with the Chelsea Foundation. 

The evening before additionally saw 80 C-Suite industry leaders attending an ESPN Leadership Dinner, where Dr. Jemison and MLS Star and community activist, Kei Kamara of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, sat down with Beyond Sport founder, Nick Keller, to discuss leadership and their personal projects to inspire young people and better society. Kamara built a school in his native Sierra Leone through his Heart Shaped Hands Foundation, an experience he referred to as “his World Cup.”

Another event highlight featured Danielle Costa, Marvel Studios’ VP of Visual Effects, in conversation with Angela Woods, ESPN’s Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship. They spoke on what sport can learn from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) - on and off the screen by exploring the advanced technology used in Black Panther. With sport and entertainment sharing a similarly wide appeal, the discussion also touched on how role model characters, like teen engineer Shuri, can inspire girls into STEM. Costa shared that Shuri is the most popular MCU character and the smartest engineer.

The event closed with representatives from higher education partner, NYU, relaying that, in the effort to strengthen the link between STEM education and sport, NYU will be building a database in partnership with Chevron for the growing Sport and STEM Alliance which was established following the 2017 Beyond Innovation summit. Delegates ended the evening by committing to Take Action going beyond the event.

Beyond Innovation included representatives from ESPN, Nike, Google, Girls Who Code, Samsung, Special Olympics, US Sailing, Reebok International, Women Win, College Football Playoff Foundation, Citizen Schools, YouTube Impact Lab, Right to Dream, Association of Women in Science, MLSE Launch Pad, Peres Center for Peace, Techbridge Girls and many more.

Beyond Innovation was supported by STEM Leadership Partner, Verizon, International Media Sponsor, ESPN, STEM Champions, Challenge 22, EverFi, BOKS and AUTODESK, Higher Education Partner, NYU, and Official Digital Media Partner, SportTechie.

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