Today we celebrate National Inventors Day to commemorate American inventors' significant contributions to our country and the world.
These inventions, I suspect, began with inspiration. But even before the seed of the idea blooms, it starts with following a path and gaining knowledge that gave fruition to the concept.
You must nurture the budding inventor, and in that context, I am referring to the idea of promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education to New Jersey students. We often hear that American youth lag behind other countries in STEM education. Yet, a STEM curriculum provides the groundwork and the basis for inventions and progress that improve our lives and living standards.
We can halt this trend, which is why I have introduced Senate Bill No. 2258, which establishes a four-year "New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program" in the Department of Education. This initiative would allow grants to school districts to support nontraditional STEM teaching methods for students grades 4 through 12. My bill offers support, fostering innovation and broad interest in STEM careers. In short, it would introduce and encourage students to participate in STEM-related curriculum at that precious time in their lives when they are sifting through interests that ultimately become careers.
New Jersey, indeed, our country, needs a creative way to attract students toward STEM careers. Here are the stark facts. About 5% of U.S. students receive a bachelor's degree in engineering. It stands at 20% in Asia, and in China, it is a stunning 33%, according to the National Science Board.
American fourth-graders do well in international competition in STEM-related topics, but by the 12th grade, our students are near the bottom or dead last. If more of our children don't enter the education STEM hallways, from where will we draw our innovators and inventors in these disciplines? An additional boost for choices in STEM careers is the anticipated need and expected growth.
"Employment in occupations related to STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022," according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "That's an increase of about 1 million jobs over 2012 employment levels."
The jobs will be there. The more significant challenge is to fill our classrooms with bright-eyed, enthusiastic students. This is particularly true for students who have obstacles because they are minorities or live in rural communities that lack needed resources.
Exposure to STEM can be life changing. "Young people in mentor-based programs are more likely than nonparticipants to attend an institution of higher education on a full-time basis (88% versus 53%), nearly twice as likely to major in a science or engineering field, and more than three times as likely to have major specifically in engineering," according to Brandeis University's Center for Youth and Communities.
When I read about an inventor who improves our lives, I can't help but wonder what seedling of an idea blossomed into that final invention.
New Jersey is rich with fostering inventions, from Thomas Edison's first phonograph to Holtec International and Krishna P. Singh, Ph.D., for inventing a method for storing spent nuclear fuel. For a more detailed list, visit https://njbmagazine.com/monthly-articles/new-jersey-inventions/.
A STEM education doesn't only foster a student's growth, it contributes to our lives too.
That's my take, what's yours?