Horseheads, NY – Standing at Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Greater Southern Tier BOCES Board Chairman Don Keddell and Horseheads Superintendent Ralph Marino, announced today her innovative education agenda to encourage more youths, especially women, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), bolster engineering education programs across New York’s elementary, middle, and high schools and encourage the development of computer science career education programs that meet the market needs of employers.
“New York is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities, a world-class workforce and innovative career opportunities,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But if we’re going to keep our competiveness in the global economy, and keep our skilled workforce in the region, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with getting more talented students – from diverse backgrounds – into the STEM pipeline at a younger age, expanding engineering education, and developing programs that will introduce students to the many career opportunities in computer science. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It’s our job to make sure they are prepared.”
With eight of nine of the fastest growing industries requiring math and science proficiency and women, minority, and low-income students underrepresented in STEM and computer-related careers, Senator Gillibrand is pushing for federal measures to close the achievement gap and bring more STEM-related K-12 programs, like the NXT Robotics Programs and the Cyber Surgeons e-Mission offered through the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (WEDC).
The WEDC strives to educate residents of New York’s Southern Tier through formal and informal STEM educational programs. By providing in-school programs and extended-day programs as well as a number of summer programs, WEDC teaches K-12 students the basics of some of our nation’s most valuable skills while fostering a spring-board for future leaders in these fields. The WEDC offers a range of programs including the one here today that consist of e-Missions through their relationship with the Challenger Learning Center in Wheeling, WV. An e-Mission is a simulated group activity where students act as the crisis response team and video conference with Mission Control to make recommendations to solve the crisis using their background knowledge in STEM areas. These programs are aimed at students in grades 3-12 and include crisis situation like Hurricane disaster response, space travel, and emergency medical care. The newest program offering is a “Mars driver’s license”, which will be issued after completing a unit of Mars science including remote investigation of a terrain park with a robotic vehicle. It will be followed by simulating landings on extraterrestrial bodies and flybys of asteroids.
Last year Wings of Eagles reached approximately 4000 students. Initially courses attracted few female and minority students, with numbers hovering around ten percent. Over the years, proactive measures, including scholarships and precision recruiting have raised the number of female students to forty percent, with a like number for minorities. Women, who represent nearly half of our workforce, make up only 26 percent of the STEM workforce. Minorities are also drastically underrepresented in STEM fields – African Americans and Hispanics together account for 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. Additionally, students from economically disadvantaged communities struggle to access STEM opportunities, with the vast majority of federal resources channeled into higher education institutions where these populations are significantly underrepresented. Recently in a public/private collaboration with the Greater Southern Tier Board of Cooperative Education Services (GST BOCES), WEDC has joined the fiber optic Southern Tier Network, providing extensive bandwidth to support electronic distribution of courses to deliver STEM curriculum to more students.
To spark greater student interest in STEM, Senator Gillibrand announced three key proposals as part her innovative education agenda. Under Gillibrand’s legislation, the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, in partnership with local schools, would be able to apply for federal grants to strengthen STEM education and boost participation in computer science.
Senator Gillibrand’s STEM Education Agenda
1. Providing STEM Education and Access to Girls and Minorities
Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation called the STEM Gateways Act 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. Selected elementary and secondary schools in partnership with community colleges, non-profits, and other partner organizations would be able to use federal funding to support STEM, classroom activities, extra-curricular and after-school learning, summer programs, student tutoring and mentoring, and professional development for educators. Such focused efforts on expanding STEM opportunities for girls, minorities and economically disadvantaged students will broaden and strengthen the pipeline of American STEM workers.
2. Bolstering Engineering Education Programs in Nation’s Elementary, Middle, and High Schools
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. Encourage the Development of Computer Science Career Education Programs
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Computer Science Career Education Act that would establish a grant program to encourage the development of computer science career education programs that meet the market needs of employers and better integrate secondary and postsecondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 1 in every 2 STEM jobs will be in computing and there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science and only 400,000 students with a computer science degree. Despite these opportunities, most states do not offer computer science courses as part of their core curriculum in math and science and have focused on offering technology literacy or computing application courses. Grants under this program would be awarded to a consortium between State or local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations and employers in the computer science sector.
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