Oct 12, 2023
Meet Our People and Partners / Feature Story
Team Panasonic Katie Ledecky: “Be Creative and Learn As Much As You Can Every Day”
Top Swimmer, Stanford University Graduate, and STEM Education Advocate
Katie Ledecky is known worldwide for her accomplishments as the most decorated female swimmer in history—three-time Olympian, seven-time Olympic Gold medalist, and 21-time world champion who has broken 16 World Records. But Ledecky isn’t just passionate about swimming—she’s passionate about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, too. She graduated from Stanford University in 2021, earning her BA in Psychology with a minor in Political Science. Ledecky believes that STEM education and STEM career opportunities are critically important because it can empower younger generations to contribute to society by addressing and resolving today’s challenges.
Ledecky has pledged to continue working with Panasonic on the “STEM Forward with Katie Ledecky and Panasonic” program to develop educational content for elementary, middle, and high school students in North America, Japan and around the world. STEM Forward combines Ledecky’s passion for STEM education, careers, and advocacy, Panasonic’s legacy of innovation, and Discovery Education’s worldwide leadership in edtech to introduce students to the power of technology with standards-aligned resources for any learning environment. Katie’s and Panasonic’s initial STEM program reached over 450,000 students and 7,500 educators in its first year.
While in Japan to participate in the 20th World Aquatics Championships, held in Fukuoka, Ledecky had the opportunity to explore the environmental activities that Panasonic is working on in Japan. The Panasonic Newsroom Global team had the opportunity to meet and talk with Katie during her visit to learn more about her passion for STEM and her partnership with Panasonic.
Making STEM Education Accessible to Help Realize a More Sustainable Future
How important is STEM education in solving environmental issues?
There are so many problems today that I think are going to be solved through STEM education and the younger generation. But to equip younger people with the tools that they will need to get creative and excited about solving these problems, we need to make sure that they are learning as much as they can. People today are taking action, and Panasonic has created a lot of great solutions to help address the challenges we face, but we’re going to continue to have to work on new solutions as technology improves and as we discover and learn about new problems that are impacting our world.
What role do you want Panasonic to play in the STEM Forward program?
I think a lot of people see me as a swimmer. But for most of my life, I’ve been a student. And even though I’m not in school right now, I’ve completed my degree at Stanford University. I’m still trying to learn every day. And I think that’s a message that I want young kids to hear: even if you love a sport, even if you want to go all in on a sport, that it’s also really important to take your studies seriously.
So, it’s really great to be able to partner with Panasonic on this program. Panasonic has really helped create a lot of excitement around the STEM program, teaching young students about some of the careers that Panasonic offers and introducing them to some of the great Panasonic leaders and team who work at Panasonic.
We’re continuing to grow the program, so that many young students in the United States and Japan—maybe in France as we get close to the Olympics—can get excited about science, technology, engineering, and math, and really come together with their teachers, with their peers, with other students to really learn about these subjects, really get excited about them and to help solve the world’s challenges.
What is the impact you hope to achieve?
We want to reach as many students and teachers as possible, and we want them to enjoy the program. We want students to take something away from it, whether they learn one thing, or they learn 100 things, and if it inspires them to find new ways to learn about things. I think that’s the goal—that their learning doesn’t stop with our program, that they get excited about continuing their education and taking their studies seriously. Maybe it will inspire them to follow a STEM career path that will contribute in a really positive way to our world. We’re trying to reach students who don’t have the kind of access that every student should have, and make sure that the teachers have some great programming for their students.
You’ve been a part of Team Panasonic since 2020. What do you think about your collaboration and partnership with Panasonic so far?
I feel so good about our program and what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. We began working on it before the Tokyo Olympics and the pandemic. Even though we weren’t able to physically visit as many schools as we had planned, we were able to create an excellent virtual program ahead of the Tokyo Games. Through this virtual approach, we were able to exceed our expectations and reach even more students, and I think that success has really inspired us to continue along this path of creating content online for students and teachers so that we can really reach as many people as possible.
We've also been able to visit students in person and do both online and in-person learning. I really enjoy those moments because you get to see the excitement on the children’s faces, answer their questions, and do experiments with them. You really see it firsthand. So, I think it’s been a really great program so far. I’m excited about our future together. I’m excited about getting out there and seeing that excitement and being with Panasonic along this journey as we continue to try to inspire as many students as we can.
Continuing from last year, why did you decide to continue your collaboration with Panasonic again this year?
Panasonic has such great values, and one of their values is to contribute to society. It really aligns with my values. And we’ve been able to reach so many students and educators already. So why stop?
How has your Japan trip been so far? What are your impressions of the culture, the people, and your competition?
I love Japan. This is my third time in Japan. I was here in 2018 in Tokyo for the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, in 2021 for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and for the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka in 2023. This visit has probably allowed me the most time to experience the culture and get to meet people. We didn’t have quite the experience of that in 2021 with the Olympics, because of the pandemic. This time, I’m trying to soak it all in, trying to see as much of Tokyo as I can. I’ve really been struck by how kind and friendly everyone is.
Japan is such a beautiful place. There are so many sights to see in Tokyo. I really enjoyed Fukuoka, where the World Championships were. There’s a beautiful pool, and they put on a really great show bringing a lot of enthusiasm and support, cheering us on. That meant a lot to us.
I’ve really enjoyed every single time I’ve been to Japan. I hope that I can come back in the future as well.
Katie’s Message to Young People: “Try to Be the Very Best That You Can Be”
“To all the young students out there, to all the young athletes, I want to tell you to continue to work hard and to continue to work to find your passion, whatever it is that you love—whether that’s science, technology, education, math or whether that’s swimming, basketball, soccer/football, another sport. Go all in and try to be the very best that you can be. Set some big goals for yourself, aim for the gold. And most importantly, have a lot of fun doing it. Have a lot of fun with your classmates, and with your teachers, be creative and learn as much as you can every day.
“Enjoy the things that you really love doing with your family and your friends. Don’t be afraid to set those big goals. I never dreamed I would make it to multiple Olympic Games, win medals, and break world records. But through hard work and slowly believing in myself, year after year, I’ve been able to achieve those things. And I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, along with being able to travel the world.”
As part of its environmental initiatives and pledge to ensure the well-being of everyone, Panasonic is committed to making education accessible for young people. The Group will continue contributing to the next generation of STEM and environmental education with innovators like Katie Ledecky.
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