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Talking STEM education with Grammy winner will.i.am

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Musician will.i.am spoke at Mount St. Mary's College's Doheny Campus on Feb. 18. He challenged students in the audience to think about careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Los Angeles native will.i.am. is many things: a musician, producer, entrepreneur and a philanthropist, to mention a few. On Feb. 18, he was a special guest speaker at Mount St. Mary’s College’s Doheny Campus.

The 7-time Grammy® winner and frontman for The Black-Eyed Peas was on campus to talk about one of his biggest off-stage passions: the intersection of education and technology. And he encouraged Mount St. Mary’s students to think about a career in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

‘There is no shortage of basketball players, or musicians, or entertainers, or Instagram uploaders,” he said. “But there is a shortage of engineers! We don’t have enough young women like you grow up saying, ‘I want to be an engineer!’ We need you.”

will.i.am, who was born William Adams in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, shared how getting a robotics program started in his hometown school was the genesis of his interest in technology.

“If you’re from somewhere that’s struggling, all you hear people say is ‘I can’t wait to get outta here,’” he said. “Nobody from the ‘hood says ‘I can’t wait to change things here.’ So we have to change that mindset. And technology in education is the way to do it.

“The designers of tomorrow are your age,” he continued. “They’re being disciplined in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They’re the geeks. The dopest, freshest, most rambunctious, disruptive, coolest, edgiest people on earth right now. And I’m a wanna-geek!” 

During his talk, will.i.am talked about the quick pace of change in some fields, and predicted future changes to come. Those predictions ranged from how technology will increase people’s ability to better monitor their own health to how refrigerators could soon double as data storage units so that people can retain control of their own data.

“I know some of this sounds far out there, but it’s not,” he said. “So learn up on it! Technology doesn’t have to be your master. But be literate in it. Because tomorrow will be controlled by those who know how to create and use all this new technology that’s coming.” 

After his speech, he posed for a few photos with students and then met with Mount St. Mary’s College President Ann McElaney-Johnson to talk more specifically about how technology influences higher education.

will.i.am’s focus on education and technology extends to his “i.am angel foundation,” which helps to provide future leaders and innovators with comprehensive financial assistance for college. The “i.am.angel Foundation” has also created i.am.STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), in collaboration with Discovery Education, to provide underserved elementary students with learning and interaction opportunities beyond the classroom.