Engineering For The Future

Project: Light the Fire

A technology based education provides students with thinking and problem-solving skills that enable them to be successful in both science and engineering and non-science and engineering careers.

The purpose of project “Light the Fire” is to generate excitement around math, science and engineering in middle and high school students such that they take on technologically related disciplines as career choices. This project has the potential to create generations of US and world leaders in science, engineering and related fields.

“Light the Fire” differs from most science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs in that it fosters a dynamic collaboration between teachers at middle and high school levels and professional societies/organizations. Teachers are directly solicited for their ideas and asked to identify resources needed to get students excited about STEM subjects. Schools are then partnered with professional technological societies and organizations who then work with the teachers directly to provide the resources identified. Resources can include limited financial assistance and connecting youth with inspirational professionals actively involved in STEM related careers.

The Need

According to a recent Congressional report “Scientists and engineers are widely believed to be essential to U.S. technological leadership, innovation, manufacturing, and services, and thus vital to U.S. economic strength, national defense, and other societal needs (e.g., treating and preventing diseases, ensuring access to affordable energy, protecting and restoring the environment)”. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the number of scientists and engineers needed to meet growth and net replacement needs between 2012 and 2022 is 2.3 million, including 1.2 million in computer occupations and 544,300 engineers. Additionally, jobs in many occupations now require a higher level of STEM knowledge than ever before. (see Congressional Research Service Report Science and Engineering Workforce, R43061 dated Feb 19, 2014.)

Sadly, U.S. students lag foreign students in STEM knowledge. According to a recent CNN article, when it comes to mathematics, reading and science, young people in Shanghai are the best in the world. Meanwhile, the United States ranked 36th, performing below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average in mathematics and with a score indistinguishable from the average for reading and science.

The OECD study also found that:

· although the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this apparently does not translate into better performance

· the U.S. has a below-average share of mathematics top performers

· U.S. students have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands

· students in the U.S. do not report strong motivation towards learning mathematics.