Christina Alexopoulos Smith is the Director of Business Development at OCTANe. Prior to joining OCTANe in 2013, Christina worked in development at the Schmid College of Science and Technology at Chapman University where she focused on fundraising, outreach, and program marketing along with teaching as adjunct faculty in the voice department at the Hall-‐Musco Conservatory of Music in the College of performing arts. Christina received both her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in Vocal Performance from Mannes College, The New School for Music in New York, NY. Christina taught voice in New York City public high schools through the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Outreach Program and has performed in many concerts and operas in New York, Florence Italy, Helsinki Finland, St. Petersburg Russia the Baltic States, Los Angeles and many more.
What excites you most about STEM Education?
First of all I want to thank you for asking me to be interviewed. It is an honor and pleasure to be involved with the OC STEM Initiative. What I have learned in the year that I have been involved is truly exciting and now that I am a new parent it gives me a lot of confidence that my daughter will be trained with skills and knowledge to be competitive in STEM focused jobs
What excites me about STEM education today is that not only are students being exposed to STEM at an earlier age but we are also teaching STEM in creative ways that really engage the students. I am seeing more and more young people passionate about STEM. This is very different than how I remember STEM being taught. What I remember was a lot of memorization and not feeling engaged or interested. We also didn’t do any tinkering in science class. If you wanted to tinker you had to buy a science kit or build Lego’s at home. So the fact that young children are building robots, drones or designing and printing out prototypes with 3D printers in the classroom is extremely exciting! They get to see first hand cause and effect relationships and the results of their own creations!
What are your hopes for the future of STEM Education?
My hopes and dreams for STEM education are that somehow or someway we incorporate music into the mix. I feel that it should be STEM2 with the “M2” standing for math and music since they both use the same part of the brain. While I believe that STEM education is extremely important in today’s world, I also believe that there should be a balance so that children are well rounded and learn the value of the arts and the importance of practical skills to
navigate life. I know this may seem contrary to the traditional definition of STEM but here are a few facts to think about.
- Studies have shown that music has a positive influence on intelligence, learning and
- Music can help to improve memory performance and mathematical abilities
- One of the only activities that activates, stimulates and uses the entire brain is music.
“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres” – Pythagoras (570 BC – 495 BC)
What are your current and/or past experiences with STEM Education – are there any highlights you would want people to know about the work you are doing with OCTANe?
As a former opera singer/musician I cannot say I have much personal experience in STEM education. However, I understand that most of the things we use in our lives are the results of STEM, from our toaster ovens to navigation systems. STEM is the foundation of our economy as it creates jobs. It is said that every working engineer creates approximately ten non-‐ engineering jobs. Part of OCTANe’s mission is to create jobs and grow the high-‐technology ecosystem in Orange County. The OC STEM initiatives help attract our children into the necessary disciplines to learn the skills they will need to be competitive locally and globally. As more children go into STEM fields here in Orange County, OCTANe gets closer to achieving its goals.