Our children like math and science too — so why aren’t they more visible in the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)? Not just faces of color, but young women? Beccastone previously talked to Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, about this subject and his work to increase minority participation in the STEM area. Earlier this year, new numbers from the National Science Foundation raise the same question — why are there so few minority engineers?
Back in 2009, Texas Democrat Ruben Hinojosa spearheaded a discussion on the congressional floor that included prominent mathematicians and minority engineers. There was talk of more money for scholarships, mentoring and more programs specifically to attract, minority students. What’s happened? Not much.
America is in the middle of developed countries in math and sciences, which dampens our competitive edge as leaders in technological innovation and research. So the dearth of minority engineers is not just a community problem — it’s reflective of an American problem. The USA just doesn’t generate a great many engineers, scientists or mathematicians given its population and resources.
At a time when it is difficult for some young people to find employment, there are 2.5 million STEM jobs that aren’t being filled, and computer science will only become more important in the future. The lack of minority engineers is not a new issue. But we need new ways to address the problem.
The Four Keys to Growing Minority Engineers
Foster Interest — Notice it early — does your child have an aptitude for math. Do they want to know how video games and web pages work? Do they have a natural curiosity? Help them explore this interest. Encourage them to “find their tribe” — other children who have the same STEM interests.
Find a Mentor — Our children have to find role models they can believe in and look up to–people who will be patient enough to introduce them and help them navigate the world of math and science.
Academic Advisors — Once we as parents spot an aptitude or interest, we have to partner with our children’s academic advisors and guidance counselors to make sure their coursework feeds their interests and hones their ability. Sometimes overworked school administrators make assumptions about kids and may push trade schools and programs that don’t fit. The advisor and the parent have to be a team with agreed-upon goals and objectives that work in the best interest of the student.
Summer Programs — Many colleges and universities sponsor summer camps for kids who are interested in math, science or engineering. These camps offer great places to meet college recruiters and for our children to build community with others who share the same interests. Now is a good time to start researching these opportunities, which could have application deadlines in the first quarter of the New Year.
Black Girls Code — Introduces young girls to the world of computer science
Roots In Science and Engineering — Awards grants and scholarship to foster learning
Summer of Innovation — NASA’s STEM camp and mini-grant program
Code Retreat — Hosts events focusing on computer science
Best Engineering Programs in America — ranked by US News & World Report