The National STEM Enterprise
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are specific subject areas collectively referred to as STEM. Many of our country’s leaders recognize that STEM expertise is necessary if we are to meet many of our current and future societal challenges, both at the national and local levels. However, even the coordinated national effort to prioritize STEM in our school systems will likely not be enough to ensure an adequate workforce pipeline of STEM expertise in the United States. To mitigate this projected dismal outcome, we must augment and enhance current STEM curricula in new and innovative ways that will invigorate and inspire both current and prospective STEM students to a much greater extent beyond our current situation.
To ensure an adequate workforce pipeline of STEM expertise in the United States, we are tasked with fulfilling two challenging requirements: (1) we need to educate an adequate number of American students that opt to purse studies in STEM fields, and (2) we need to equip an adequate number of teachers and instructors with real-world skills that facilitate their ability to integrate stimulating value-added content in the STEM courses that they teach in school. The requirements are inter-related, and their priorities are equally weighted, but how we fulfill the individual requirement needs may involve separate strategies. The high-profile educational priority of STEM in the United States demands that we are determined and creative in our mindset and collective efforts if we expect to achieve the desired outcomes.
Current Status of STEM
The STEM courses in many schools in the United States are taught by experienced and mentoring teachers that excel in their profession. The educational system provides an excellent learning environment and ample opportunities for those having STEM access. Successful students already accrue the benefits of the STEM enterprise. However, advanced and self-motivated STEM students likely represent only the tip of the pyramid accounting for only a small fraction of the total student base in the United States. The remaining part of the pyramid includes a very large population of students having STEM potential who either do not have access to STEM education opportunities or who instead opt to pursue other courses of study for whatever reason.
Innovative perspectives on how to energize and capture the interest of more students in STEM fields need to be considered if we are to ensure an adequate workforce pipeline of STEM expertise in the United States. From the science perspective, we must consider the possibility of the need to evaluate and modify current STEM pedagogy in a way to emphasize real-world relevance of the scientific principles, concepts and theory traditionally taught in science classes to make them interesting and worthwhile to a much broader range of students.
Scientific Measurements and STEM
Widespread acceptance of the inclusion of analytical scientific measurements in STEM programs provides one specific blueprint on how to energize chemistry students in high schools throughout the United States. For example, the experiences derived from hands-on demonstrations and experiments using computerized analytical instruments representative of real-world professional workplaces could provide motivational inspiration and the necessary insight into new exciting career opportunities. SAMEC™ is home to the new bold and innovative Stranaska® initiative which provides the vision to motivate and inspire high school and post-secondary chemistry students through analytical metrology.