Working towards STEM strength

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It is an important acronym for our country since these areas are key to U.S. economic growth, but underserved in U.S. education. For years there have been efforts in the U.S. to improve student engagement in STEM studies. This week President Obama announced a campaign named “Educate to Innovate” that enlists the help of businesses and nonprofit groups to encourage students to embrace STEM subjects. Everyone from Elmo to David M. Zaslav, the president of Discovery are pitching in to provide programming that shows the fun and fulfilling aspects of STEM studies and research. Science and engineering societies are providing volunteers to work with students in the classroom. Corporations are coughing up big bucks to fund promotional campaigns. Sony is donating 1,000 PlayStation 3 game consoles to utilize gaming as a tool for education and inspiration. The Department of Education is investing $4.35 billion in stimulus financing to states to promote innovative programs.

A special emphasis is being place on including women and minorities in the effort. A recent study by researchers at Northern Illinois University found that high school boys generally have a more positive attitude towards science classes than high school girls. The boys in the study expressed increased engagement as projects became more challenging. The girls reported feeling less engaged when faced with more challenging tasks. Both males and females enjoy class discussions, but males preferred labs and giving presentations, while females preferred seatwork and lectures. The challenge is to find out why young women seem less interested in STEM subjects, and utilize that knowledge to make the subjects more interesting to them.

Educate to Innovate has become a major priority for the White House. The Obama administration believes that the country’s economic destiny lies in the ability of college graduates to innovate in the areas of science, technology, and engineering, which are all dependant on a strong math skills. Diversity in the scientific and engineering community is an important factor in achieving innovative solutions to the wide array of challenges that face our country and our planet.

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