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The Rise of S.T.E.M.

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Students at the Boys and Girls Club of Harford County participate in the i3 STEM program, including experiments and research. Labs are one of the favorites! Credit: The Boys and Girls Club of Harford County.

Students at the Boys and Girls Club of Harford County participate in the i3 STEM program, including experiments and research. Labs are one of the favorites!
Credit: The Boys and Girls Club of Harford County.

 

STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Most students shudder at the sight of some of those words, but whether or not you choose to believe it, they are involved in every aspect of our life. Each second brings a greater need for increases in technology and science. From creating the microchip for the next I-Phone, to developing a breakthrough prescription. Without a doubt, STEM jobs are here.

The field is expanding rapidly, as others deplete. Some STEM jobs like Biomedical Engineering will see a 62% increase by the year 2020 according to the Department of Education. And in an unstable job market, these careers should be ‘the next big thing.’ Students should be flocking to these areas, learning, studying, becoming the next generation of science. It’s projected that these jobs are also growing 1.7 times faster than those not in the field. The salary for STEM jobs isn’t shabby either: a petroleum engineer, a major STEM job, makes a median salary of $98,628 a year. For most high school students, that sounds like what they want.

But students aren’t pursuing these STEM careers. The Department of Education reports that only 16% of all high school seniors are proficient in math and science. Angela Rose of the Harford County Chamber of commerce concludes “It IS important to educate students on the rise of science and technology as careers.” These careers are no joke, they’re incredibly substantial. In terms of where the United States stands globally though, we rank 25th in mathematics and 17th in science: nowhere near where we need to be. Even President Obama has said it himself, that American students must “move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math.”

The President is doing something to make this happen, and not wasting any time. In his 2015 fiscal year budget, he’s including $170 million dollars to make a some sort of a surge in these STEM fields. The state of Maryland is also chiming in, implementing programs into the curriculum.

Many feel it is the responsibility of the school systems to motivate students, for after all they are the ones teaching math and science. Although, how can we inspire a bunch of high school students, concerned more with their homecoming dress at times than their careers in only a few short years to come? Making the STEM field a. Known and B. Approachable, is key to getting high school students to respond. “The transfer of skills is best done, not in a lecture format, but in a relationship where young people are trained beside professionals in the skills and attitudes required to be successful in the field,” Ciavolino comments. The country is aiming for these desperately needed programs, so that these students will continue onto college, and then into the fields to advance science here in the states and internationally.

Students report wanting to do things like ‘make a difference’ and ‘inspire’ with what they are passionate about, but Susan Ciavolino, the STEM Education Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Harford County, has another side of the story, “they also need to bring more than passion. They need solid skills to attack the problems facing our world.” So what can be done to bring about this?

The Boys and Girls Club right here in Harford County is trying to inspire the next generation of innovators through their new programs. They have a specialized i3 STEM program specifically in Harford County, aimed to get kids excited about projects in these fields. The STEM Education Director, Susan Ciavolino concludes, “STEM skills will provide the foundation for so many future jobs in our community and even in our nation. We need to get the word out and we need to support those who are willing to push themselves to achieve in these fields.” They’ve built an updated facility in Edgewood, and the kids are excited. There’s been an extremely positive response, and the students working there have made everything from music videos in their studio, to rockets and problem solving techniques.

STEM is growing, and the United States is trying to catch up.

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The Rise of S.T.E.M.