If I had $1M for STEM education?This morning I woke up to an email alert that Lockheed Martin has granted $1 million to implement and sustain Project Lead the Way programs in 12 states and D.C. The press release claims that “Altogether, the PLTW programs in these 23 high schools and 26 middle schools will provide 47,737 students access to PLTW’s rigorous and hands-on STEM curriculum.” My mental response sputtered a few questions:

  1. Does access equal participation? Access for what students? PLTW is historically attractive to male students. How could this $1,ooo,ooo  incentivize and improve the lack of participation, equity and accessibility for women and minorities in engineering?
  2. Whose definition of rigorous are we using here? and by what standard? To call something rigorous doesn’t make it rigorous. How could this $1,ooo,ooo help PLTW define their rigor via academic research and validation?
  3. How do we define STEM curriculum these days? Oh wait…. there is no real definition, because STEM has become a policy buzzword that has lost it’s meaning. Didn’t PLTW formerly advertise as engineering curriculum? How could this $1,ooo,ooo improve STEM education?
  4. Finally, If I had a million dollars… (as I start humming Barenaked Ladies) How would I improve STEM education?

If I had a $1,000,000…. for “STEM” Education (but really K-12 Engineering Education)

Loosely hummed to the spirit of the tune of Barenaked Ladies – If I Had A Million Dollars
  1. If I had a million dollars, I’d invest in developing, researching, and validating engineering curriculum, a truly integrated STEM education, that is accessible to all students and inspires countless  students of all races, genders, and creeds to become STEM professionals.
  2. If I had a million dollars, I’d create a bridge program for seasoned engineers to train to teach in K-12. The experience they can offer students is INVALUABLE.
  3. If I had a million dollars, I’d recruit engineering undergrads to teach engineering in K-12, and offer them incentives to educate our future.
  4. If I had a million dollars, I’d offer current K-12 Engineering teachers industry externships, to experience true engineering design, and real applications of science and math. Give them experience to take back to the classroom!

I am glad to hear that industry leaders such as Lockheed Martin are supporting STEM education. I am happy for the 49 schools that have received grants to implement PLTW. I am hopeful that the some 50K students that have access to these programs see that engineers make a world of difference and help shape our future… and engineering is a great career for ALL people.

And finally, If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich.


EDIT Jan 8, 2012. This morning I spoke with David Dimmett, PLTW Senior Vice President and Chief Engagement Officer. We had a really encouraging conversation about the research objectives of PLTW. He shared with me this PDF summary of some of the current research: PLTW Research Summary by DR.TAI