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Most teachers jump at a chance to go on field trips. It didn’t take long for 65 Hillsborough County science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers to sign up to spend an exceptional day at Florida’s premier cancer center for the fifth annual Healthy KIDZ  Heart a STEM Teacher program.

Moffitt Cancer Center and Hillsborough County Public Schools have partnered to make an investment in the lives of educators, children and families around the greater Tampa Bay region. Larry Plank, community partner and director of K-12 STEM education with Hillsborough County, says STEM opportunities are important for classroom learning.

The Heart a STEM Teacher program allowed the teachers to become the student and learn firsthand about Moffitt’s world-class research institute. It’s a natural progression for teachers to take valued experiences and share them in the classroom as a bridge to science, technology, engineering and math.

Moffitt’s Artificial Intelligence Officer Ross Mitchell shared how AI is making huge impacts in the health care industry.

Mark Fleeting, cybersecurity technology development lead, reminded teachers that STEM careers are on the rise and cybersecurity is a growing field. Fleet emphasized the importance of protecting their privacy and provided warnings about clicking on unfamiliar links or opening emails that come across with incorrect spellings in the address field.

Mark Fleeting speaks to attendees at Moffitt's 2020 Heart a STEM Teacher event.

This hit home for Akshay Naik, a University of South Florida cybersecurity major and cancer survivor. For Naik, the opportunity to participate in the program alongside teachers was extra special. He made it a point to network with both Mitchell and Fleet with the hopes of shadowing them one day at Moffitt.

While the day also entertained other attractions, a visit by the Museum of Science & Industry and a session in STEM speed dating, for Riverview High School teacher Scott Rosenbluth, meeting eight college students interning in Moffitt’s one of a kind Integrated Mathematical Oncology Program rocked his world. The interns spoke about the research projects they are working on during their time at Moffitt.

Mathematic Biology students from Dartmouth College are spending eight weeks learning with Moffitt’s Mathematical Oncology program.

“I never realized how the application of mathematics in fighting cancer can help maximize patient outcomes,” said Rosenbluth. “I wrote down some notes that I’m definitely going to take back to my students. Learning doesn’t stop when you’re out of high school or college. It’s important for them to see that their teachers are continually trying to better themselves.”

Unanimously, educators agreed, STEM career trails are meant to be explored and taking new ideas from Moffitt to the classroom was a go. It’s full STEM away!

Healthy KIDZ at Moffitt Cancer Center is a community outreach program for children and adolescents of all ages focusing on cancer prevention, healthy living, positive life choices and careers in health care.