Queens, NY – After touring the fourth annual Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced new legislation to encourage more women, minorities, and low-income students to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. To help close the racial, gender, and income-level gaps among our high-tech workforce, Senator Gillibrand’s Supporting Underrepresented Groups’ Education in STEM (SURGES) Act would create a grant program for elementary, middle, and high schools aimed to spark interest and improve access to rigorous STEM programs for underrepresented groups, particularly young women, minorities, and economically disadvantaged students. Schools can partner with local colleges, non-profits, and businesses, and will be able to use federal funding to design STEM programs that will develop the skills that young women, underrepresented minorities, and students of all economic backgrounds will need to be competitive in the workforce today and for years to come.
New York City has more STEM jobs openings than any other city in the nation, according to Forbes, but City students continue to lag behind globally in math and science. According to the New York State Education Department, 24 percent of New York City’s high school students scored unsatisfactory in math and 39 percent score unsatisfactory in science in 2010.
Women, who represent nearly half of our workforce, make up only 26 percent of the STEM workforce. African Americans and Hispanics together represent about 30 percent of our workforce, but make up only 7 percent of scientists and engineers. Together, African Americans and Hispanics receive less than 5 percent of all doctorates in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science.
In an effort to close the achievement gap, Senator Gillibrand discussed her innovative education agenda to spark greater student interest in STEM, including bolstering engineering education programs in the nation’s elementary, middle, and high schools and drawing more STEM teachers to educate children in high-need areas. Senator also announced legislation to help city entrepreneurs and innovators to harness expertise around the country, share best practices, improve training and marketing opportunities through a national network of high-tech hubs.
“New York City is home to the world’s strongest economy, the greatest colleges and universities, and the world’s innovative minds,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But if we’re going to keep our place in the global economy, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with getting more talented young women, minorities, and students in high-need communities into the STEM pipeline. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It’s our job to make sure they are prepared.”
“The pace of innovation is so brisk that there are estimates that two-thirds of today’s schoolchildren will find themselves working in jobs that don’t even exist yet, said Margaret Honey, President and CEO of New York Hall of Science. “With barely 5% of US workers in science and engineering fields, there are more than 2 million unfilled technical positions right now across the country. We need new strategies to inspire students and sustain their interest in STEM.”
New York Hall of Science’s fourth annual World Maker Faire showcases innovation and experimentation by tech enthusiasts, educators, students, engineers, and commercial exhibitors across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance and craft. The collaboration between NYSCI and Maker Media, the organizers of Maker Faire, points to a powerful synergy between the maker movement and venues such as science centers where hands-on, experiential learning can inspire great achievements.
New York Hall of Science has played a role in closing the achievement gap through their innovative internship project known as the Science Career Ladder program, which is designed to encourage young men and women from all five boroughs of the City to become inspired by science and consider careers in the so-called STEM professions—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Hall employs a corps of 100 high school and college student “Explainers” who conduct demonstrations and answer questions, with most Explainers assisting in after-school and summer programs for elementary school children. In addition, NYSCI presents more than 400 exhibits and demonstrations, workshops and programs for all audiences and provides professional development, curriculum resources and other services to classroom educators.
Senator Gillibrand’s STEM Education Agenda
- 1. Providing STEM Education and Access to Girls, Minorities, and Low-Income Students
In the coming weeks, Senator Gillibrand will introduce new legislation that would provide funding through the U.S. Department of Education to help schools implement rigorous STEM academics, with a focus on reaching underrepresented groups. Specifically, the program would give priority to schools that have: graduation rates below the state average, test scores in science and math below the state average, percentage of free or reduced lunch above the state average, and communities with an unemployment rate above the state average on the date of the application.
Selected schools would be able to use federal funding towards STEM programs that part of the school’s education curriculum, classroom activities, extra-curricular and after-school activities, summer programs, student tutoring and mentoring programs, and professional development for educators to carry out these activities. Schools can partner with organizations including local colleges, non-profits and private companies to provide hands-on STEM training for girls, minorities and low-income students.
- 2. Bolstering Engineering Education Programs in Nation’s Elementary, Middle, and High Schools
In June, Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation that would help boost engineering education programs in the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools. The Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act (ETEA) would help increase student achievement and interest in innovative, hands-on learning through engineering design skills and disciplines by removing barriers at the federal level and building upon existing federal education policy in several key areas. Legislation would expand student exposure to engineering design skills by requiring states to ensure engineering design skills and practices are integrated into their science standards, provide instructors tools and support to effectively teach engineering, and enable schools to target more resources toward engineering education by expanding the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program to include all STEM subjects, including engineering and computer science. Legislation would expand both the 21st Century Learning Centers program, which provides funds for after school activities, and the Rural and Low-Income School program to include program funding for all STEM subjects.
Gillibrand’s bill would also bolster federal research in the area of engineering education by amending the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 to include all STEM subject areas for the first time under The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also directs IES to specifically support key studies and evaluations related to K-12 engineering education, including identifying best practices and promising innovations.
- 3. Produce More STEM Teachers
Our nation faces a stark shortage of math and science teachers to prepare our students. In fact, the U.S. will need an estimated 283,000 math and science teachers in secondary schools by 2015, according to the Business-Higher Education Forum 2006 Report. The lack of STEM teachers in low-income schools widens racial and gender gaps among our high-tech workforce. To help equip all of our classrooms with the teachers we need to train more students to be the high-tech innovators of the future, Senator Gillibrand re-introduced the National STEM Education Tax Incentive for Teachers Act, which would provide STEM teachers a tax credit to cover 10 percent of their undergraduate tuition – up to $1,000 each year. STEM teachers serving in high-need schools would be able to deduct up to $1,500 each year. This legislation is a critical tool to attract STEM teachers to low-income schools and help increase the number of low-income students succeeding in STEM classes and pursuing STEM careers.
Senator Gillibrand’s Legislation to Provide Resources and Training to Entrepreneurs and Innovators
After meeting with entrepreneurs, innovators, and creative start-ups who showcased their work at the Maker Faire, Senator Gillibrand also announced that she will soon be introducing the National Fab Lab Network Act with Senator Dick Durbin. The legislation would create a federal charter for a non-profit called “The National Fab Lab Network.” Fabrication Laboratories or Fab Labs are state-of-the-art facilities available to the public where children and adults can invent, design and manufacture products. This national network would consist of local Fab Lab workshops across the country equipped with high-tech equipment, such as computer-controlled machine tools and “3D printing” manufacturing devices, allowing entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds to build virtually anything, learn new skills, develop new innovations and potentially create businesses in the process.
The proposed New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is a prime example of a fab lab that will help revitalize manufacturing in the city and also provide educational benefits. The New Lab, a collaborative design and fabrication laboratory, will utilize 160,000 square feet of space at the Navy Yard to provide open access to state-of-the-art facilities for entrepreneurs, educators, and businesses in manufacturing, biotech, advanced robotics architecture, industrial design and other disciplines to use high-tech tools to create meaningful products and technology. The Fab Lab Network would assist in establishing new fab labs, allowing communities and tech hubs to leverage the network to harness expertise around the country, share best practices, improve and strengthen training programs, and utilize marketing opportunities.