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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Gillibrand unveils agenda to boost STEM education

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  • HORSEHEADS | Standing amid aging giants imagined and created by the last generation of great engineers, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday the nation needs to do more to help the next generation get started.
    Gillibrand, D-N.Y., came to the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center to push for three new pieces of legislation she’s introduced to help educate and train students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
    She said the programs available at the center made it the right place to talk about STEM education.
    “(This is) exactly the kind of hands-on learning we need,” Gillibrand said.
    Before she spoke to the press in front of the center’s collection of retired military aircraft, Gillibrand spent some time with sixth-grade students from the Horseheads School District who were taking part in a hurricane-tracking simulation.
    The students had to track the storm and decide which areas should be evacuated to keep residents safe.
    “What these kids are learning is that they have the skills to track a hurricane,” she said.
    Gillibrand said afterward that making scientific education about helping people was more engaging to young women.
    She said the policies she’s promoting are focused on bringing in more girls and minority children, who are underrepresented in STEM fields.
    She said nationwide, the scientific and engineering workforce is only 26 percent female, and only seven percent African American or Hispanic.
    The STEM Gateways Act, one of three bills Gillibrand is introducing, would offer grant money through the federal Department of Education to help schools implement STEM programs, with an emphasis on underrepresented groups.
    Eligible programs would include regular classroom education, extracurricular or after-school learning programs, summer programs, tutoring and mentoring and professional development for teachers.
    Another proposal, the Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act, would require states to integrate engineering-focused standards into their science standards. It would also expand the 21st Century Learning Centers program that funds after-school activities, and expand the Rural and Low-Income School program to include funding for all STEM subjects.
    Gillibrand also noted a major projected gap between future job openings for those with computer science education and the number of Americans receiving that education. She cited a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that in 2020, there will be 1,400,000 computer science jobs and only 400,000 Americans with computer science degrees.
    To adress that, she’s also introducing the Computer Science Career Education Act, which would establish grant programs for computer science education and the secondary and college levels.
    Horseheads School District Superintendent Ralph Marino said he was glad Gillibrand was bringing federal focus on the issue.
    “I was very, very excited” to hear her proposals, Marino said. “It needs more attention.”

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