STEM event pushes for more science and engineering class in K-12 schools

Jason Gallaher

The college of engineering and computer sciences and the Michael D. Eisner college of education came together Monday night to host “Enhancing the T-E in STEM – Technology and Engineering.”

The event, held in Nordhoff Hall, emphasized introducing engineering into K-12 curriculum and getting children excited about career fields within technology and engineering disciplines.

Dr. Susan Belgrad, a professor of elementary education and organizer of the event, said jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are critical for the economy of California.

“Our lieutenant governor has cited there are 300,000 jobs out there (in STEM fields) that we are not preparing our kids for,” Belgrad said.

A representative of the U.S. Department of Labor, Alicia Villarreal, agreed, and said not only are STEM fields important for California, but for the nation as a whole.

“The future of our global workforce lies in STEM education, so it’s critical we get all levels of education interested,” Villarreal said. “The president set a goal of having one million engineers graduate in ten years.”

The keynote speaker was Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, president and director of the Museum of Science, Boston, who has been developing programs through the museum’s National Center for Technological Literacy that will get elementary school-aged children interested in engineering.

“If you look at school curriculum in K-12, it’s all about the natural world in science, not the human-made, engineering world,” Miaoulis said. “Human-made science makes up 98 percent of the world.”

Miaoulis’s work introduces young children to problems in their everyday lives that they can solve through engineering and technology.

“Take a second grade project where they have a bunny rabbit as a pet,” he said. “Tell the children they have a classmate who is allergic to the bunny rabbit, and they need to design a habit that is safe for the child who is allergic to the bunny rabbit, and safe for the rabbit.”

Representatives of multiple scientific groups, including the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation and Sally Ride Science, attended the event.