At Chassis Plans we have been supporting engineering students for several years via scholarships and hiring students as interns. As we go into the future there is a strong need for technologists to support future development in all fields of science and engineering.
Is there a real shortage of Engineers and Scientists in the current marketplace? In 2008 the Bureau of Labor estimated there would be a shortage of 160,000 engineers and scientists by 2016. However, some of the more recent studies are showing that there is not a shortage of engineering talent but the issue is whether the math and science education in the United States requires development in both primary and secondary schools. What is being done about it and is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Of all the reports, both pro and con, on the engineer shortage, the one thing that is agreed on is that students today need to develop better skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). No matter what career path is taken by today’s students, knowledge of STEM skills will be an aid to better opportunities. In a 2011 article for the Wall Street Journal, Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin stated – “In my position as CEO of a firm employing over 80,000 engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers. But the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly.”
The good news is that STEM programs are in almost all high schools and more primary schools. STEM programs are multidiscipline based incorporating the integration of disciplinary knowledge into a new whole. Technology helps us communicate; math is the language, science and engineering are the processes for thinking and all this leads to creativity and innovation.
In the past, there were huge government programs, such as the space program, that captured the imagination of many students and helped keep enrollment in engineering and science programs high. Today the government is sponsoring STEM programs to excite students. There are engineering-oriented competitions such as robotics competitions hosted by both the government and private companies.
There are resources outside of the normal school campus that can also help excite students to take an interest in science. Three of the key outside influences that can have an effect on students are:
- The Internet
- Transformation of public libraries
- Open source software and hardware development.
The information explosion created by the internet has greatly surpassed what has been available in the past. The challenge is to be able to discern what information is useful and what is not. In the past a student would have to go to the library and look up the topic of interest using the sources available in that library. If a student lived in a small town the resources were limited. The internet provides an almost unlimited number of sources on any topic. So does that make the local library an obsolete facility?
The function of the library is changing. Libraries are moving away from just being a place where books are stored. Today’s libraries are embracing the internet culture and getting involved with STEM programs. More and more local libraries are adding Makers labs, computer labs and adding equipment such as 3D Printers that can be used by the public. One example is the new library in McAllen,Texas, where an old Wal-Mart building was turned into the largest single floor library in the United States. As part of the makeover computer labs were added as well as meeting rooms for STEM and Makers events.
Another driver of technology education is the concept of open source development projects which generate free or very low cost software and hardware solutions. Using open source developed products, schools, as well as individuals, can have hands on experience developing robotics, graphics applications and other technology projects.
The support of STEM programs by government agencies, schools and companies will go a long way to improving the skills of students in science, math and engineering and help to provide sufficient technology workers for the future.
Chassis Plans will continue to help with additional scholarships, equipment donations, and Intern programs.