Press Release

Subcommittee Discusses STEM Education Support from Private Companies, Universities, and the Federal Government

By SpaceRef Editor
January 9, 2014
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(Washington, DC) – Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing to discuss the growing role of private investments and continued support from the Federal government and universities in America’s STEM education efforts. The first panel before the Subcommittee included Mr. Dean Kamen, Founder of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) and Founder and President of DEKA Research & Development Corporation; Mr. Hadi Partovi, Cofounder and CEO of; Dr. Kemi Jona, Director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships and Research Professor of Learning Sciences and Computer Sciences at Northwestern University; and Dr. Phillip Cornwell, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The second panel included high school students who have competed in FIRST Robotics Competitions.

Witnesses and Democratic Members discussed meaningful steps the government, universities, private companies, and communities can take to capture a student’s interest in STEM at a young age. They also recognized the changing nature of the global economy and the need for STEM workers in every sector of the private market. There was bipartisan support for including computer science in future STEM education legislation and initiatives. Mr. Partovi discussed the growing workforce demand for computer science training. The work of shows the need for an evolution in K-12 education to include computer science coursework for every student.  The students on the second panel provided unique perspectives on how programs like FIRST have helped them discover the value of STEM education and future opportunities within those fields.

Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Dan Lipinski (D-IL) said in his opening statement, “One of the reasons I joined this Committee is because of my strong interest in working to improve math and science education in this country. I am one of only a dozen members of the House and Senate who has an engineering degree. My wife was a math major in college and – unlike me – her STEM training led her directly into a career as an actuary. From our own family experiences and what I have seen over the years, I am very aware of how important it is that we do a good job of engaging and educating our students at all levels in STEM fields. But with the release last month of the latest PISA results, we were reminded yet again of the troubling statistics on the state of U.S. math and science education. U.S. K-12 students rank in the middle of the pack in international comparisons of math and science aptitude. We see the problems at all job levels.  I constantly hear from manufacturers back home that they have a hard time finding employees who have even basic math and science skills.  In higher education we have far too few students pursuing and completing degrees in certain STEM fields to meet the needs of domestic industry.  For example, less than 2.4% of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, despite tremendous demand for these skills, and that number has dropped over the last decade…We know these to be complex problems with no easy or one-size-fits-all solution.  That’s why partnerships between the private sector, Federal and state governments, colleges, universities, local school districts, national labs, science museums, zoos and aquaria, and all types of nonprofits are more important than ever.”

Ranking Member of the Full Committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also highlighted the importance of continued federal support for STEM education. She said, “Unfortunately, too many students across the country do not have opportunities to participate in inspiring STEM activities or to receive a high quality STEM education. Once again, our students were just in the middle of the pack in the latest international test of science and math proficiency. We can no longer depend on our top few percent to maintain a strong and vibrant economy with good, high-paying jobs in our own communities. Our competitive edge will be lost if we do not vastly improve STEM education in this country for all of our students.”

She continued, “We know that this is a complex challenge that no one entity can solve alone.  There is no silver bullet.  And, there is a role for all the key stakeholders, public and private…Many Federal STEM programs, including those supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education, are making a difference in universities, community colleges, and K-12 schools across the nation. There are also many valuable programs being funded through other federal science agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Energy.  These agencies are filled with thousands of scientists and engineers who can make a difference in their own communities and for students across the country. As working STEM professionals, the real life work that they do using STEM is so inspiring to our children.  But the federal role is more than that.  The National Science Foundation is the premier STEM education research organization in the country. For decades, NSF has been a leader in developing the most effective and inspiring STEM curricula and programs in and out of the classroom. When the private sector invests in STEM education, they are looking for proven programs with proven outcomes. NSF, more than any other organization, is responsible for building that evidence base. I hope this Committee will continue to exercise its responsibility to conduct oversight of NSF’s and other agencies’ STEM education programs.”

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SpaceRef staff editor.