Imagine a world with self-driving cars, smart cleaning robots, and computers that think like humans. We’ve actually reached that reality to some extent - we’re just still working out the kinks and making that technology more functional and robust. The next generation of innovators will be the ones to make these dreams our new everyday reality - the kids in school today are the tech leaders of tomorrow. But how do we cultivate our next leaders in STEM?
Why STEM knowledge is key for students
In our technology-driven society, it’s vital that we encourage more kids and teens to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.
Not only are these fields important to the development of the economy, they can also set young people up with well-paying jobs and the stability they need to thrive in the future. Job growth is strong in many STEM fields, and this trend is only going to continue in the coming years.
Projections from a few years ago estimated that there would be a 14% increase in STEM jobs overall from 2010-2020. Pursuing a degree in a STEM field can mean that graduates have an easier time getting a well-paid job once they leave school. Even if students aren’t considering a career in STEM, having basic knowledge of skills in computer science, math, and other subjects can make navigating the workplace much easier.
Challenges in STEM education
Unfortunately, many students are discouraged from STEM at an early age, particularly girls and kids in minority groups. Approximately 29% of the STEM workforce in the US is made up of women, and minorities are severely underrepresented in these roles as well.
Overall, the US is third on the list of countries when it comes to new STEM graduates, with only 568,000 in 2016. These shortfalls and lack of diversity could affect our ability to progress exciting new technologies and grow the economy over time.
So how can we get kids excited about STEM and reduce the coming shortfall of STEM graduates? One way is engaging students with STEM even when they’re not in school, with camps and summer programmes.
Engaging students with STEM: The Tulane STEM summer programme
The key to engaging students with STEM is to get them excited about these subjects, and to make learning accessible. Some students find STEM subjects intimidating, because they’re often portrayed as more difficult than other subjects. Often, younger children are more interested in STEM subjects, but their interest wanes as they move from middle school to high school.
Tulane University’s STEM summer programmes for K-12 students is designed to help students of different ages and interests engage and learn. Courses in coding, robotics, environmental science, and engineering introduce these topics in engaging and relevant ways. Middle schoolers explore topics like coding to build a jazz band or creating a prostatic limb, while high schoolers can design a lego robot to clean up the streets of New Orleans after Mardi Gras.
The STEM summer program at Tulane offers a wide range of courses, immersing students in a hands-on learning environment with small class sizes that will help prepare them for university-level STEM coursework. Cultivating our future leaders in STEM starts with engaging one student at a time.