Jeanne Shaheen - U.S. Senator
Senator, New Hampshire
America’s future depends on continuing to be the global leader in science and technology. America makes the best, most innovative products and services, and that ingenuity and excellence is our chief economic strength as a nation.
But we are in danger of losing that edge. Science, technology, engineering and math – what we call the STEM fields – are the skills that drive innovation.
Jobs in the STEM fields are expected to be the fastest-growing occupations of the next decade. However, not enough students in our country are pursuing an education in STEM subjects to keep up with the increased demand.
We need to encourage students, as early in their education as possible, to learn to love the STEM fields. We need to recognize that not all students learn the same way and that hands on learning can make a huge impact in whether a child decides that he or she “loves” a subject or “hates” it. And we need to introduce students to mentors in the STEM fields, role models make a difference to the career decisions our children pursue.
I have introduced legislation in the Senate, the Innovation Inspiration School Grant program, which will provide new incentives for our schools to think outside the box and embrace extracurricular and non-traditional STEM education programs. It establishes a competitive grant program that will encourage schools to partner with the private sector for financial support and to find mentors who can serve as guides to students.
I am proud that New Hampshire is the home to the FIRST Robotics program. For over a decade, teams of students have been designing robots to compete against one another in regional, then national, competitions. I have seen students in New Hampshire work together to create amazing robots. Not only do these children learn important lessons directly relating to STEM subjects, but they learn how to collaborate and cooperate with each other. These truly are skills for life
It is these kinds of non-traditional STEM programs that make a difference in the students’ lives and inspire them to continue in STEM careers or postsecondary education. Research shows that 99 percent of students who participate in FIRST Robotics graduate high school and almost 90 percent go on to college. Once in college, these students are nearly seven times more likely to major in engineering and twice as likely to major in computer science. They are also significantly more likely to attain a post graduate degree.
Our nation needs to take action and set a STEM agenda that will preserve our nation as the most competitive and dynamic economy in the world. We should all work together to be sure the students of today get the tools they need to be the leaders of tomorrow.