Stephen Portz has taught Career and Technical Courses for the past 28 years in Brevard County, Florida near the Kennedy Space Center. He began teaching at Edgewood Junior High School, where he taught Manufacturing, Industrial Skills, and Technology. For the past 18 years, Portz has taught grades 7-12 Engineering and Technology at Space Coast Junior Senior High School in Cocoa, Florida. While at Space Coast, Portz has advanced STEM issues by mentoring science research students, coaching Odyssey of the Mind, FIRST Robotics Teams, and establishing the STEAM Engineering Career Academy while serving as the lead instructor.
Portz holds a Bachelor of Science in Technology Education from Brigham Young University with an emphasis in engineering design, as well as a Masters Degree in Vocational Programs Administration from the University of Central Florida. He is a Nationally Board Certified Educator in Career and Technical Education. His love for teaching came while serving a mission among the Navajo people of the four corners area of the desert southwest. Many of his technical abilities were nurtured as a thermal protection mechanic on the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia. Since that time, Portz has kept his technical skills current by working for NASA and its various contractors performing engineering design work in various space flight systems.
As an early adopter of 3D printing in his Brevard County, Portz has a passion for giving students access to desktop manufacturing technologies and the democratization of product design. Portz has been a pioneer in engineering education. As a member of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA), Portz served as a trainer for teaching model courses, Invention and Innovation and Engineering by Design.
Stephen Portz is a nationally recognized leader in STEM Education and is a Triangle Coalition for STEM Education Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. As such, he was placed with the National Science Foundation, Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, in the Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS). In this capacity, he worked to stimulate innovative research in cybersecurity education and the promotion of computer science and cybersecurity K-12 education initiatives.
Additional projects while at NSF include working with the University of Virginia - Curry School of Education to develop engineering programs at the middle school level using low cost equipment alternatives as well as ease of adoption implementation strategies. This activity has yielded partnerships and collaborative opportunities to work with the Thomas Jefferson Library at Monticello and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. In another project, Portz had the opportunity to work with NBC Learn and the National Science Teachers Association, in concert with the NSF and the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, to develop training for secondary science teachers to infuse engineering education using the Next Generation Science Standards.
An accomplished writer, he successfully wrote a Florida State RFP for the conversion of industrial arts programs to technology education, as well as a Florida Succeed Grant to establish an engineering career academy on the Space Coast. Most recently, Portz received a Motorola STEM Grant to initiate a manufacturing partnership with local industry to bring real world manufacturing practices into his classroom. He has been published in numerous national journals in subjects ranging from using satellite technologies in the classroom to teaching STEAM to children by using toys, as well as robotics, engineering design, and project management.
Portz is the recipient of the 2012 Florida Advanced Technological Education Center Manufacturing Educator of the Year and the 2014 Space Coast STEM Teacher of the Year presented by the Space Coast Chapter of Women in Defense. Using a project-based team learning model to educate his students, Portz integrates science, technology, engineering and math content seamlessly into his instruction, believing it to be the perfect STEM delivery system.
"Students need to learn that everything meaningful that they will do in life is a project that needs to be managed, from planning a picnic to launching the Space Shuttle," says Portz. He maintains that most educators understand how effective project based learning is, but because it is difficult to direct project-based learning, they tend to avoid it. "You would be surprised, students don't fail nearly as much from procrastination as they do from lack of project management skills." When you instruct them on how to manage projects, they are much more successful. Portz believes that for real learning to take place the following conditions need to be present: "Learning must be relevant, learning must be personal, and learning must be fun."
Stephen and his wife are the proud parents of five children. As a family project, they designed and built their own house one summer, which survived the four Florida hurricanes of 2004 and Matthew in 2016. Making has always been a passion for Steve and he has used his skills to further the arts as well by engineering, designing, and helping to direct students in the creation of musical theater sets for the Brevard Community College Summer Fine Arts Institute. His proudest accomplishment in set design was the creation of a 30-foot diameter rotating stage for Les Misérables, along with two automated transforming barricade sections for the Paris street scenes.
I Am A…Designer, Maker, Teacher
Tools I Use…
Design Programs: Solidworks, Inventor
3D Design Skill Level