(June 13, 2014) — In the current job market typified by stubborn unemployment rates, there are areas where available jobs outnumber those applying for them: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Despite the strong demand for STEM jobs, many women as well as members of under-represented minority groups are not entering the technology pipeline due to certain factors, including shortcomings in K-12 education.
Recently, President Obama called for STEM education reform, indicating that STEM instruction “requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think.”
Popular activities that encourage young people to seriously consider engineering and science include For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) which annually stages robotics and LEGO competitions that emphasize the fun side of engineering, while teaching important science, math and team-working lessons to pre-college students. Over the years, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers has taken an active role in various STEM outreach initiatives, including FIRST competitions, for which the society has recruited mentors, judges and engineering students.
One especially exciting STEM-related program was the Decision Point Dialogues held recently in conjunction with the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference. Moderated by public radio’s John Hockenberry, the Decision Point Dialogues, “Critical Thinking, Critical Choices: What Really Matters in STEM,” featured a panel of STEM notables, including Ioannis Mialouis, president and director of the Museum of Science in Boston, and Madiha El Mehelmy Kotb, the 2013-2014 president of ASME and head of the pressure vessels technical services division for Regie du batiment du Quebec, in a fast-paced discussion of the STEM challenges facing pre-college teachers and their students today.
During the two-hour panel session, Kotb offered some advice to students who may be considering earning a degree in engineering or another STEM field. “Don’t just pursue it because you’re good in math and science,” she said. “You have to have a passion for it. Girls should spend a day at work with engineers and see what their life is like.”
ASME is also participating in a pilot program with leading education technology company EverFi by sponsoring a web-based interactive STEM education platform for middle and high schools in the Washington, D.C., area. The course comprises 16 modules addressing STEM-related topics such as basic computer science and the real-world application of algebra.
According to President Obama, “Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today — especially in science, technology, engineering and math.”