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Inquiry First.

Between the years 2002 and 2010, states cut funding for public research universities by 20 percent in constant dollars.  Meanwhile, in countries including China and India, spending on technology and education increased over the same time period.  So says the 2012 release of the biennial report, "Science and Engineering Indicators," which looks at scientific trends in the US and worldwide.  A compendium of fascinating data, the report will be available on the National Science Foundation's web site at noon (ET) today.

It may not be the short-term-forecasting epicenter of the country, but the American Meteorological Society (AMS) -- long-established at 45 Beacon Street -- boasts an unparalleled history of meteorological research.

The organization was founded in 1919 with the goal of helping farmers by improving the science of weather forecasting. Today, it is the hub of meteorological research in the country, producing conferences and journals that bring together the best of the best in meterological science.

"Our goal is make sure lawmakers are able to use the science that is available properly on topics like global warming," says Keith Seitter, the society's executive director. "We sit down and present the cold hard facts to these politicians based on the best science available."

NECN meteorologist Matt Noyes is a fan. "The AMS is really just a collection of the best meteorologists in the country," he said. "It truly is a fantastic professional organization."

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For Stephan Turnipseed, winning a seventh grade science fair was transformative experience.  The current LEGO Education President keeps the framed certificate won at the time of his science fair victory close at hand to remind him of the power of discovery, which his company harnesses so well to the benefit of generations of students.  "Our dramatic ability to engage and motivate students, and unlock creativity [is] dramatic,” Turnipseed says, “Our strongest presence is in the STEM area."

Great things are happening in the Everett, MA Public Schools.  Of particular note: The Everett High School Science Fair, held on January 12.  Exhibitions in biology, chemistry, engineering, and physics offered answers to some intriguing questions.  How does the application of heat affect a pineapple's enzyme activity?  Are naturally optimistic people more capable than pessimists of telling a fake smile from the real thing?  Is organic or synthetic fertilizer more conducive to plant growth?  What drinks have the most dramatic impact on blood pressure?

Featuring 109 projects, the fair represented the work of well over 125 students, who either submitted individual projects or partnered with a friend on the effort.  Many of them expressed their interest in STEM subject matter.  "Science is my favorite subject in school... Read More

New research from King's College London suggests that there's a disconnect between young students' enjoyment of science in school and their attitude about pursuing a professional career in the sciences. The ASPIRES research team surveyed more than 9,000 primary school age children, and found that at around the age of 10 or 11, attitudes about science begin to drop off. "Children and their parents hold quite complex views of science and scientists and at age 10 or 11 these views are largely positive," notes research team leader Louise Archer. "Nevertheless, less than 17 percent aspire to a career in science."

What do you think is happening in school to drive this trend, and do you believe that a similar phenomenon exists in the USA?

In US News & World Report, William Broman, a current biomedical engineering major at George Washington University, offers a reality check about the financial burdens facing many college graduates in the form of hefty college loan payments. The data, he says, supports the notion that one of the quickest ways for graduates to eliminate their college debt is to enter a STEM field. "One way to get students interested in these fields is to inform them of the money they can make with their degrees," Broman suggests. "Money entices people to work harder, and while money can't buy happiness, it can buy a lot of the cool gadgets that youth are fascinated with." Makes sense to me.

From Maine to Arizona, high schools across the country seem to be embracing the reality of the importance of a strong educational foundation in the sciences.  Increasingly, this new understanding is taking the form of STEM-specific high school diplomas.  In pursuit of a STEM diploma, students focus more heavily than usual on science-related subjects, often  with the opportunity to take STEM classes at their local community colleges.

The trend appears to be a response to a host of recent reports sounding the warning bell about the state of STEM education in America, including a recent report from the Commerce Department highlighting the need for federal investment in STEM education.  As Commerce Secretary John Bryson said, "Our ability to innovate as a nation will determine what kind of economy — what kind of country — our children and grandchildren will inherit, and whether it’s a country that holds the same promise for... Read More

Among the messages featured in a speech this week by Air Force Space Command commander General William Shelton: We must make STEM education exciting to keep students interested in pursuing science, engineering, and math subjects in college and beyond. Speaking up in support of high school internships in the sciences, General Shelton said, "Just think how many kids we could get off the fence and down the path of a STEM career once they got to participate in some real-world science and engineering."

Middle School teachers: Do you have a student whose science aptitude and interest might make her or him a contender for the title of America's Top Young Scientist?  Open to students in grades 5 through 8, a national middle school science competition sponsored by Discovery Education and 3M could net the winning scientist $25,000! Click here for details:

A new study released by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce paints a grim picture of the direction of America's students. While evidence abounds that a college degree in a STEM subject is one precursor to success in this economy, students don't seem to be heeding the call to major in engineering, math, or the sciences. Only 16 percent of recent college graduates, to be exact, chose a STEM major. What's the barrier to entry?

The Georgetown study suggests that shaky math aptitude in high school prevents students from looking seriously at STEM subjects in college. Unfortunately, this fact leads study authors to conclude, “Current interest in STEM fields and proficiency in math are not sufficient to meet U.S. workforce demand.”
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