Assistive technology (Adaptive technology), or AT: A broad term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities—any solution that helps people adapt to disability. Without the use of such devices, enhancements, or methods of engagement, the disabled person may not be able to function at home or work without great difficulty, or at all.

One-on-one technology training and assistive technologies can be helpful for older workers who are returning to the workforce after brief periods of retirement, or as they adapt to the natural loss of vision, hearing, and mobility that often accompanies aging. Veterans are great candidates for AT since many suffered injuries in the line of duty and are young enough to have had exposure to technical interfaces earlier in life—they therefore warm to technical solutions more readily, whereas older learners may find it difficult to use technology in general.

Since there is a lack of technical expertise on a local level in many regions of the world, there is opportunity for volunteers from the STEM arena to improve the quality of life for these individuals. In many cases, problems could be easily solved by someone with an above-average understanding of technology in general. For example, it might help to show them how to engage the built-in AT features of operating systems and productivity software. Free, downloadable resources can be found online via Google or other search, if you know where and how to look.

The range of disabilities among aging workers and veterans is broad and there may not be fits-all AT solutions for everyone. Volunteering to help veterans is the perfect arena for STEM scholars to identify unique problems that, once solved, could be further developed into life-transforming technologies for others in the future. The discovery could be the basis for a STEM master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Grassroots: A term used to describe an effort that has been originated by ordinary people (rank and file workers), instead of by the leadership or elite of a country, political party, social organization, industry, etc. Projects in the technology arena are typically led by major research institutes, universities, or industry—and typically after they are funded. In STEM-Trek’s case, people who are affiliated with many different global STEM arenas have volunteered their effort for a common goal: to support travel and professional development for STEM scholars from regions affected by the global economic crisis, regardless of their institution or nationality. STEM-Trek stakeholders participate as individuals, not as representatives of the agencies or organizations by which they are employed. Their relationship to STEM-Trek transfers with them if they change employment, for as long as they wish to be engaged. As a community effort, STEM-Trek sought critical mass via social media of like-minded individuals before it applied for funding so that the interests of the funding organizations could not influence the organization’s initial framework or goals.

Nonprofit: In the US, there are two categories of nonprofit 501 organizations, including 501.c.3 and 501.c.4. STEM-Trek is applying for 501.c.3 status. The difference between the two classifications is that the primary objective of a 501.c.4 nonprofit organization is to lobby (attempt to influence governing bodies or individuals, such as US legislators or UK parliament members) on behalf of a specific cause. As a 501.c.3, STEM-Trek is limited to less than 20% lobbying effort.

Nonprofit organizations use surplus revenues to achieve their goals, or invest them for future use, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends to shareholders. Other names for this type of organization include: nonprofit, not-for-profit, NPO, non-commercial organization (NCO), or other.

STEM-Trek has a board of directors and slate of officers who make day-to-day and long-term decisions. To date, all management and advisory effort is voluntary—everyone contributes without compensation. In the future, once funded, STEM-Trek will employ a small staff (one to three employees) who will manage the day-to-day operation and will continue to seek direction from its voluntary board of directors.

STEM: An acronym used for the fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Experts in these fields typically contribute to advances in medicine, energy, socio-economic development, infrastructure, technology, trade, tourism, agriculture, and governance. Unfortunately, there is a global shortage of STEM workers who are skilled in the use of performance technologies and a growing concern that we aren’t doing enough to prepare youths for careers in STEM, or maintain a citizenry that is well-versed in the importance of STEM.

STEM-Trekker (beneficiary): Graduate or postdoctoral STEM scholar who has submitted a meritorious application that was reviewed and selected by STEM-Trek’s quarterly review process.

Unemployment (Joblessness): The status of people who are eligible and able to work, are actively seeking work, but can’t find jobs. The rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all possible individuals in the workforce. During periods of economic recession, there will typically be a high rate of unemployment. However, a reduced unemployment rate of a region isn’t necessarily an indication that the economy is improving. If the situation extends longer than the length of allowed benefits, for example, a false sense of recovery is experienced when the rate decreases as people are no longer eligible (but still may not be able to find work). In reality, a combination of factors must be present in order for experts to agree that the economy is recovering.

Veteran: The English word “veteran” has Latin roots meaning “old,” but it also describes someone who has had significant experience or length of time spent working in a particular occupation or field. More commonly, however, the word is used to describe people who have served in the armed forces. If they had direct exposure to acts of military conflict and combat, they would be referred to as war veterans.

STEM-Trek is considerate of military veterans, their employment, technology training, and STEM education. While some countries provide military veterans with special (federally-funded) opportunities due to the sacrifices they have made, other countries do nothing more for their veterans than they would ordinary citizens.

It can be extremely difficult for veterans to reenter civilian life once they have completed a period of combat duty. They have been separated from their families for long periods of time, subject to illnesses, and exposed to a variety of hazardous situations. In addition to high rates of physical disability, many suffer from emotional setbacks, or more permanent post-traumatic stress disorder. One-on-one technology training and assistive technologies can be helpful for veterans, especially those who are adapting to disability. See Assistive Technology (AT) above.


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