Time Warner’s One-Stop Shopping for STEM


Late last year, Time Warner Cable launched Connect a Million Minds, a national afterschool initiative to motivate kids to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Connect a Million Minds is an online clearinghouse where parents, educators and others can find nonprofit programs in their communities, including the robotic competition FIRST, local science museums, Junior Achievement and other STEM-related activities.

As a longtime promoter of STEM and youth innovation, this magazine is a huge fan of this initiative.

Former astronaut Sally Ride, Intel CEO Craig Barrett, the Carnegie Foundation and the Gates Foundation also will provide support.

Time Warner announced the five-year, $100 million plan in conjunction with the White House. President Obama and Time Warner officials hope the project helps strengthen America’s economic competitiveness.

“Lifting American students from the middle to the top of the pack in STEM achievement over the next decade will not be attained by government alone,” Obama said in his prepared statement.”

Connect A Million Minds has partnered with FIRST and the Coalition for Science After School to give the program national scope and local application. The program highlights FIRST robotics competitions around the country and encourages volunteers and mentors to support teams of young participants. (Look for our cover story in April devoted to FIRST.)

“The importance of repairing our fragile global economy, combating the effects of climate change, replacing fossil-fueled energy production, and addressing worldwide public health needs has never been more critical,” said Dean Kamen, inventor and CEO of DEKA Research & Development and founder of FIRST. “But even as many scholars agree that improvements in science and technology are needed to meet these issues head on, the single most important challenge will be to produce the innovative, passionate scientists, engineers, and technicians who will show us the way.”

Time Warner hit on the idea a couple of years ago. The company had surveyed its customers about Time Warner’s local philanthropic efforts, a hodgepodge of local initiatives with little overarching national direction.

The results from the surveys were “alarming and disheartening,” says Ellen East, executive vice president and chief communications officer for Time Warner.

“Greater than 80 percent didn’t know what we did philanthropically,” she says. “We were spread too thin and didn’t really stand for anything in our communities. That’s not the impact we wanted to have.”

Based on research and focus groups, as well as the company’s embrace of technology – it was the first to rollout high-speed residential Internet access, East notes – the company turned to STEM as its national focus.

Time Warner has provided free cable TV service to public schools since 1989 and high-speed Internet since 1996. Adding public service announcements about STEM to those delivery systems seemed like a natural fit.

“The whole area of STEM is part of our DNA,” East says. “We employ those who have made science and engineering and math their careers.

So STEM works for Time Warner and the communities it serves.

Visitors to connectamillionminds.com can enter their zip codes to find area programs. Those programs consisted of nonprofits as of this writing. But based on a flood of responses, East says Time Warner is looking to open the “Connectory” to for-profit entities.

“If we don’t encourage kids to pursue careers in science and math, we’ll fall behind and we won’t have inventors and innovators of the future,” East says. “The numbers are fairly abysmal for a country that’s sent a man to the moon.

As for the goal of connecting a million young minds with STEM programs over five years, Time Warner hopes to far eclipse that figure.

“Nothing,” adds East, “would please us more.”

Editor’s note: This article appears in our February 2010 print edition.