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Shaheen unveils bill to create grant program targeting STEM education

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today unveiled legislation to create a competitive grant program for non-traditional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) educational programs alongside New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen.  STEM-related fields are expected to be the fastest growing occupations of the next decade, however not enough students in the United States are pursuing an education in STEM fields to keep up with the increase in demand in the workforce.  Shaheen's Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program legislation would address that shortage by increasing access to and participation in STEM programs across the country.  Shaheen and Kamen were joined at the event in Manchester by mentors and students from the FIRST® robotics science and technology program as well as alumni who are currently working in engineering.  FIRST, which was founded by Kamen, is an example of the type of program that would be eligible for grants under Shaheen's legislation.

"American students must have access to better STEM training and mentors in the field if they are going to be able to compete in today's global economy.  The legislation we unveiled addresses that need," said Shaheen.  "STEM-related fields will offer some of the best career opportunities for our students and by preparing our young people for these jobs we can help position our economy to grow for years to come."

Research has shown that students who participate in FIRST robotics program are more likely to attend college on a full-time basis compared to other students; are nearly two times as likely to major in a science or engineering field; and are significantly more likely to achieve a post-graduate degree.  Shaheen's legislation, which would establish the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program, provides funding to states and school districts to help bolster student access to quality non-traditional STEM programs like FIRST. The bill also requires the schools to partner with community businesses and organizations that can provide mentors who are working in the STEM fields to assist and guide those interested students.

"It is essential that our workforce is trained in science, technology, engineering, and math education programs in order to compete in this global economy.  The legislation Senator Shaheen has put forward will help us give young people better access to non-traditional STEM programs, and encourage students to pursue higher education and a career in science and technology.  Senator Shaheen has been a committed and enthusiastic support of FIRST since the beginning, both as Governor of New Hampshire and as a member of the United States Senate, and I would like to thank her for her continued leadership. I look forward to continuing our work at FIRST to produce the next generation of science and technology leaders," said Kamen.   

Founded in 1989, FIRST works to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.  The organization expects to reach more than 250,000 students through its various programs this year. 

"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, chief executive officer of Autodesk, a FIRST business partner. "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."