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Unveils bill aimed at increasing students’ science and technology education at Capitol Hill event

STEM DC event

(Washington, D.C.) – High school students should have greater access to innovative programs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education—from robot competitions to engineering software challenges—U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) said today at an event in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  Shaheen, joined by U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), was there to discuss her Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program, a bill she reintroduced today to help encourage students to study STEM fields and ensure the U.S. workforce remains competitive in the 21st century global economy. 

DEKA President and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Founder Dean Kamen, and SAIC CEO Walt Havenstein joined Shaheen and Begich at the event.  Begich is one of the bill’s original co-sponsors along with U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), Al Franken (D-Minnesota), and Chris Coons (D-Delaware). 

Also at the event were members of four local FIRST student robotics teams who staged a demonstration competition, and taught Shaheen and other speakers how to operate the robots.

“Science, technology, engineering and math are the skills that drive innovation, and the next generation of American workers must be proficient in these skills for the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge,” said Senator Shaheen.  “The legislation I’m announcing today would provide new incentives and resources for our schools to think outside the box, and embrace extracurricular and non-traditional STEM education programs.  This is how we train the next generation of innovators.  This is important for our students, for our economy, and for our future.”

“Preparing kids for our 21st century economy can’t wait until college, where our STEM graduation rates lag far behind our global competitors,” said Senator Begich. “Programs like FIRST Robotics, which has spent over 10 years in Alaska, are a perfect example of how we can make STEM education a real and regular part of our schools. Giving kids hands-on experience with technology will prepare them for an education and career in the fields that will drive the future of our economy.”

The Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program will allow secondary schools to compete for U.S. Department of Education grants to support non-traditional STEM education.  It encourages schools to establish partnerships with the private sector, both for material support and to provide mentors who can serve as role models, further enriching students’ learning experiences.

Leaders in STEM education programs signaled their support for the bill:

“Senator Shaheen’s unwavering support for FIRST as a citizen, teacher, advocate, governor, and senator has been invaluable.  Her work inspiring young people to pursue education and careers in fields so important to this country’s future—the STEM fields—is critical to America's economic advancement and global competitiveness,” said Kamen.  “I fully support the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program as important legislation for students, families, and corporations in New Hampshire and across the country.  I am convinced it is crucial that this proposed legislation be enacted or incorporated into a comprehensive Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) bill to fulfill our country’s innovative and technological potential.  A revised ESEA must ensure that these vital opportunities are available to every student in this country.”

“This legislation helps address the growing industry demand for workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and bridges the needs of the industry with the future of education,” said Dr. Ralph Coppola, Director of Real World Design Challenge and PTC Senior Director of Government and Strategic Education Programs.  “With this legislation supporting STEM learning, we can keep our workforce strong and ensure America’s prosperity for the future.”  

Business leaders also applauded the legislation:

“As supporters of educational programs that foster interest among young people in the STEM fields that are so important to the country’s innovative spirit and economic future, we know firsthand the power of effective high school STEM education programs,” said Havenstein.  “They engage youth in challenging and exciting opportunities that expose them to content and skills that they and their prospective employers—like the many companies that support this effort—will find invaluable.”

“Hands-on education programs help motivate and excite our young people today about science, engineering, and technology,” said Linda Hudson, President and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc.  “These programs are exactly what this nation needs to develop the innovative and talented workforce we need to be competitive in the global marketplace tomorrow.  We fully support Senator Shaheen’s legislation to provide funding toward STEM education.”

“To drive the innovation our country needs to remain an economic force in the world, we need to foster the next generation of mathematicians, engineers, scientists, technologists, and designers,” said Carl Bass, Autodesk Chief Executive Officer.  “Senator Shaheen’s legislation will work to inspire and motivate students through non-traditional STEM education programs, including the FIRST Robotics Competition.   Autodesk is a strong supporter of STEM education and a long-term partner to FIRST.  Autodesk applauds her vision and we support her efforts.”

The bill has been formally endorsed by SAIC, PTC, BAE, Autodesk, the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.