Gordon, Bock: STEM Education Is Key to a Competitive America

Posted April 27, 2012 at 2:38pm

America is facing a crisis of competitiveness on the global stage.

Our nation is not developing a generation of students pursuing science careers or retaining the talents of the non-U.S. citizens who now earn more than two-thirds of Ph.D. degrees awarded by American colleges and universities. Fewer young Americans are entering fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, putting the nation’s status as an innovative world leader in severe jeopardy.

Each year since 2008, the majority of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have been awarded to international owners. Inspiring young Americans to study STEM fields is critical to reversing this trend and creating a new generation of innovative entrepreneurs. That is why the USA Science and Engineering Festival — the nation’s largest celebration of science and engineering, to be held April 28-29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — was created. This weekend, hundreds of thousands of participants will gather at the Washington Convention Center for what promises to be America’s largest celebration of science.

In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said, “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”

Discussing the inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival, House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas), said that “inspiring our children to become more interested in the STEM fields and in careers through endeavors such as this is the key to unlocking our future economic and innovative potential.”

More than 120 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have supported the festival by joining its Honorary Congressional Host Committee.

The commitment from America’s technology companies to support the festival’s expo and other events has been equally remarkable. At their highest executive levels, these companies know that their futures also hang in the balance. This issue is one which transcends party and geographical boundaries and will shape our nation for generations to come.

This year’s festival brings together a unique assortment of the country’s leading high-technology companies, colleges and universities, federal agencies and professional societies to provide an array of thousands of interactive, hands-on exhibits, stage shows and other activities.

Participants will meet science celebrities and innovators who provide real-life role models in STEM fields and be able to learn about internships, mentorships and scholarship opportunities from colleges, universities and companies focused on scientific innovation.

With our nation’s global competitiveness on the line, now is the time to make celebrating science a priority and create a new generation of inventors and explorers who will solve the challenges of the future and continue America’s tradition of being a world leader in innovation.

Bart Gordon is a former Democratic Member of the House from Tennessee. Larry Bock is executive director of the USA Science & Engineering Festival.