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Born and raised in rural South Carolina, Steven Brown has always seen potential in countryside places. Part of the reason he has turned his passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into a cause.

“Youth in these areas possess a natural gift of problem-solving, which is used in everyday STEM jobs,” he said. “Such abilities are needed to excel in communities with high poverty and limited resources,” he added. “When you put the principles of STEM in front of these youth, a light bulb comes on,” he said. It’s like Friday night lights.”

Brown founded DIG, short for Dreams, Imagination, and Gift development, in 2013 to build a STEM pipeline from the ground up. The program helps to bridge the gap between resources and communities to provide rural children the same benefits as their counterparts in metropolitan areas.

DIG also looks to partner with corporations as well as small- and medium-sized businesses and organizations in local communities.

“The U.S. rural graduation rate continued to decrease over the past four years. We feel the reason for this negative trend is the lack of assets available to youth in these areas. Trends will continue unless something is done,” Brown said.

Through conversations with like-minded people, he has expanded DIG’s services across South Carolina.

“The mission is to instill a belief in youth, children, and communities that big dreams can be achieved in small places,” he said.

DIG is one of the first organizations to roll out STEM enrichment, after-school, summer, and virtual mentoring programs in underserved communities in South Carolina.

In 2016 the DIG STEM Festival attracted over 2,000 people from neighboring counties, and more than twenty exhibitors had their technology wares on display. The festival provides an opportunity for outdoor exchange between children, teenagers, adults, and STEM professionals.

As a controls engineer with General Electric, Brown serves on the industrial Internet front lines. His GE job requires an understanding of industrial automation systems, experience with industrial control systems and industrial automation programming, and an ability to learn new software, hardware, and automation equipment and effectively implement it.

Brown graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

“I was part of my school’s Gifted and Talented program, and through that, I got to visit a BMW plant,” he said.

That one trip forever changed Brown’s life.

“Now imagine if every child in rural communities got that same exposure,” he said.

For more information about DIG and to learn ways to support this initiative, visit www.digdp.org.

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