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Inquiry First.

The Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) provides middle and high school students with the opportunity to work on independent research projects in science and engineering. Now in its 63rd year, the annual statewide fair will feature the highest quality projects of hundreds of students from across the Commonwealth. We will need more than 300 outstanding judges to donate their time to evaluate these students' work.  Some students invest more than 1,000 hours of research in their projects!

Volunteer to judge! Please consider being a member of the distinguished judging panel at the 2012 State Science & Engineering Fair.  If you have received a four-year college degree in a science or technology subject, and work in a related field, you are eligible to judge and may register online.

You can make a difference! Just a few hours of your time will help to encourage these young people in their quest for excellence in science and technology.  It's an experience that lasts a lifetime!

Orientation for new and experienced former judges is held... Read More

Featuring news, ideas, and opinions submitted by people who recognize the significance of the challenges facing STEM today, MIT STEM Pals is new, information-packed newsletter. The February issue features six articles including "Highlights of Issues Discussed at the MIT STEM Meeting," from Megan Rokop, "An Update on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)," from Elizabeth Murray, and "The Challenge of Implementing a Reporting of Current Events in a High School Chemistry Class," from Reen Gibb. Read the newsletter here, and then subscribe!

Geography and environmental science rank high among the AP courses to which students have been flocking in greater numbers recently.  The newly released "AP Report to the Nation," issued by the College Board, examines the growth trend in these science courses, as well as the relatively new interest in certain foreign languages, including Chinese and Japanese.  Read more about what other trends the report uncovered.

In this month's issue of The Scientist, Sarah L. Simmons, director of the Freshman Research Initiative in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, makes a compelling case for the multiple benefits of providing opportunities for students to perform hands-on research early in their academic careers. "Imagine the impact on the arts if we required every aspiring instrumentalist to complete 12 years of theory and careful study of the masters before being allowed to pick up an instrument and play," she writes.  Likewise, how are we to expect the practice of exposing eager young minds to years of lecture-format science courses to generate the enthusiasm required to propel them further along the STEM path?  Early, authentic research experiences, such as those that students acquire through participation in science fairs, can be hugely valuable in transforming "science-curious" students into science majors.
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STEM is getting plenty of ink following the second White House Science Fair, which took place last week. Despite the refreshingly high profile that STEM education is enjoying at the present time, the data tells a story that leaves little room for celebration, suggests James M. Lindsay. While we're hearing about the importance of the U.S turning out more STEM majors, the numbers remain relatively modest.  The reasons for students' reluctance to turn in droves to the sciences are well-established.  Science is hard; there are easier paths to the goal of a good GPA.  Teacher quality in STEM fields can be weak.  Fields like finance, with its promise of a fat paycheck, lure mathematically talented students from the potential pool of students well-equipped for sci-tech fields.  Changing the trend "will cost a lot of money, something that cash-strapped local, state, and federal governments don’t have in abundance," Lindsay says. "But it is the kind of... Read More

The budget proposal released Monday features a request for $69.8 billion for education, which represents an increase of $1.7 billion over the past year. Rikesh Nana provides a nice summary of three of the education budget's key points in this blog post on The Quick & the Ed.

With student attrition from STEM majors to "easier" fields running at about 40 percent, concerns exist that we are losing some our best and brightest to fields with fewer barriers to entry. A fundamental change in the way we teach science, from the "math-science death march" formerly imposed on new science majors, to a more collaborative learning environment has the potential to mitigate the abominable attrition rate, but one fact remains: science is really hard.  An interesting article by Adam Frank on the NPR web site makes the case for celebrating the complexities of STEM subjects rather than attempting to sugarcoat them.  "To engage with the world in search of any kind of Truth is an expression of the search for excellence," he writes. "That, by its very nature, is desperately difficult. There will always be a price to be paid in time, sweat and tears."
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President Obama hopes to increase education spending 2.5 percent for fiscal year 2013, to $69.8 billion up from the current budget of $68.1 billion.  Of particular relevance to science, technology, engineering, and math, he is looking for $8 million to fund a new initiative to train teachers in STEM programs.  The program would enable students to earn teaching and STEM degrees simultaneously, feeding the qualified STEM teacher pipeline. Read more for details on the president's budget proposal:

A new study from the Girl Scout Research Institute indicates that while girls enjoy STEM subjects, they don't necessarily consider related fields when they plan their careers.  The study, "Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math," shows that the vast majority of girls consider themselves "smart enough to have a career in STEM."  However, their career ambitions in STEM fields seems to be hampered by their lack of information about available opportunities, with 60 percent of girls who are interested in STEM indicating that they don't know as much about STEM careers as they know about other fields.  "While we know that the majority of girls prefer a hands-on approach in STEM fields, we also know that girls are motivated to make the world a better place and to help people,” says Kamla Modi, PhD, research and outreach analyst, Girl Scout Research... Read More


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