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In homage to pi, Raytheon uses pie to expand the math pipeline

Raytheon’s Colleen Maleski, standing, talks with Shaw Middle School students. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

Engineers can’t determine the circumference of a circle without the key math figure known as pi. So defense contractor Raytheon Co. wanted to thank the math and science teachers for teaching the significance of the mathematical constant 3.14.

The company recently dispatched a host of employees to local middle schools to deliver dozens of apple pies to teachers in honor of Pi Day on March 14.

Employees taught students the origin of the math figure and quizzed them with pi calculations.

“You get to middle school, and math and science performance drops off precipitously in the U.S.,” said Pam Wickham, Raytheon vice president of corporate affairs and communications. “We try to make sure that students can connect the importance of math and science to everything they do. You love roller coasters? An engineer designed it. You love your video games? An engineer designed that. You love your iPod? An engineer designed that. It takes science and math to create the things they love.”

Raytheon officials say they hope their corporate philanthropy programs increase the number of students looking to pursue a science related career. In 2005, the company created an arm of its corporate philanthropy program, called MathMovesU, that looks to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, with an emphasis on middle school students.

Shaw Middle School students Tireek Sneed, left, and Teddie Nguyen carry pies to their classroom. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

Raytheon officials say this focus could in the end give it a competitive edge and grow the aerospace industry.

“We must have a robust engineering pipeline in order to maintain the status as an innovation incubator,” said Wickham. “We’re competing against the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft. All of the Fortune 500 companies are looking at that because our country is a country of innovators. If your pool is shrinking, in terms of those who are qualified, you’re fighting for a smaller and smaller workforce. It’s in our interest but also the country’s interest to increase the pipeline. ”

The MathMovesU program partners with science education nonprofits, gives college scholarships and grants to teachers, provides professional training for teachers and offers mentoring and volunteering to students. The company is in its second year of a five year commitment to give $60 million toward STEM education programs.

Each year, Raytheon gives $1 million in scholarships and devotes 60 percent of its philanthropy budget to STEM education programs.

Employees delivered pies to Shaw Middle School, Eliot-Hines Middle School, Jefferson Middle School, Stuart-Hobson Middle School — all located in the District in a 3.14 radius of a Smithsonian Institution math exhibit that opened last month.

Shaw Junior High Principal Kimberly Douglas, seated, talks with students. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

“When you have companies come in and explain how pi is used in their everyday life, it shows them why they’re learning these things and how they can apply them,” Shaw Middle School Principal Kimberly Douglas said. “It’s not just that you do it to get a grade, you do it because if it’s something you’re interested in you can use it in your career.”

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.



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