Morton Sternheim, director of the STEM Educational Institute and a physics professor at the University of Massachusetts, said the computer simulation model could supplement a growing excitement about STEM fields among students and parents recently surveyed by the institute.

The survey, conducted during May and June, showed that participation in STEM-related subjects encouraged K-12 students to consider college and what subjects they might major in.

“Whether it’s the answer, I don’t know,” said Sternheim, director of the STEM Educational Institute for 20 years. “But it could be a piece of the answer. It might even make a real difference.”

A central reason the number of U.S. students who graduate with STEM-related degrees is lagging, Sternheim said, is the lack of involvement among students with upper-middle class backgrounds. Students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to focus on fields like engineering and technology, because they know they’ll need a job right out of college, he said.

“The more affluent the kid’s family is, the less likely [it is he or she will] go into STEM,” Sternheim said. “You have to somehow look at these numbers and wonder if it’s more about the environment in which kids are coming from.”

Fitzgerald said Ohio, Arizona, and California are expected to use the modeling computer program within the next year. Development of the program began in 2006, he said, after the Business-Higher Education Forum introduced the goal of doubling the number of U.S. college graduates in STEM fields by 2015.

The U.S. STEM Education Model can be downloaded for free at www.STEMnetwork.org. However, Vensim Simulation Software from Ventana Systems is required to run the tool on personal computers. The Vensim program is available in a free read-only version; if educators want to manipulate the model, they will need to purchase a version of the Vensim PLE Plus software. The Vensim PLE software license costs $169, according to the company’s web site.

Links:

STEM Educational Institute

Business-Higher Education Forum


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