STEM Next Director Ron Ottinger was fortunate to be invited to address the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in Washington DC on November 17. Joining Ron on the panel were Eric Friedlander, University of Southern California; Talia Milgrom-Elcott, 100Kin10; and Marcus Lingenfelter, National Math & Science Initiative.
Ron’s address was an opportunity for STEM Next to reflect on the progress that PCAST and President Barack Obama have inspired over the past eight years and to underscore our commitment to ensuring that all young people have opportunities to develop the STEM skills and capacities that are foundational to education, career, civic participation, and economic prosperity.
In its September 2010 report, Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education for America’s Future, PCAST declared that we must not only better prepare young people with critical STEM skills and knowledge, but also inspire them to get and stay engaged in STEM. The report specifically called for new efforts focused on girls, young people of color and others who are currently under-represented in STEM fields, and identified out-of-school settings as important places to spark young people’ curiosity, engagement, and interest in STEM.
The Prepare and Inspire report became the guiding beacon for the past decade’s work by the Noyce Foundation and now STEM Next to integrate quality STEM learning into afterschool and youth development networks, systems, and programs. The Prepare and Inspire theme is embodied in the national cross-sector STEM Learning Ecosystem Initiative.
Our work is just one part of a growing movement that is providing millions of youth with opportunities to engage in the Maker Movement, Fab Labs, computer science, coding, engineering and robotics, alternative energy technology, digital media, Citizen Science, and so much more. We are seeing young people claim their places in the world of STEM, sustaining their interests and building their skills over time.
The way forward
Much is being written and predicted about the impact of the new Administration on STEM education and like everyone, STEM Next is paying close attention.
We intend to stay the course on expanding opportunities for high quality STEM learning for all children, and offer four top reasons for doing so:
- We continue to face complex scientific and engineering challenges as a nation and world. Our continued prosperity – and long-term survival – depend on future STEM inventors and leaders.
- The STEM-related sector is growing and offers a pathway to economic prosperity. It’s imperative that all children regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, national origin or gender have the opportunity to prepare and succeed in the STEM-based economy.
- If American manufacturing is going to enjoy a resurgence in the 21st century, it will be due to our ability to differentiate from the global competition. A well-prepared workforce capable of lifelong learning and innovative problem-solving will make the critical difference.
- STEM skills and capacities include the ability to innovate, persist, think critically and creatively, problem solve, work in collaboration, and learn from failure, adjust, and move on. These are capacities that the future leaders of our democracy will undoubtedly need, and we must all work harder together to ensure that our young people possess them.