The Rural STEM Education Act supports research and development activities to improve understanding of the challenges rural communities are facing in providing and sustaining quality STEM education programs and takes steps to address them.
The legislation helps develop best practices for accessing and using computer-based and online STEM education courses. It helps schools combine online STEM education with hands-on training and apprenticeships to give students both a theoretical and practical understanding of science and math skills.
This bill also takes steps to address one of the key obstacles to rural STEM education – reduced connectivity, and, particularly, the lack of broadband access. It directs the National Institutes of Standards and Technology to establish a prize competition to stimulate innovations in technologies to deploy broadband connectivity to underserved rural communities. It also establishes a working group to set key research priorities for improving broadband access so rural communities can enjoy the same connectedness as the rest of the country.
This bill supports opportunities for rural educators to refresh and enhance their own STEM knowledge, such as training in computer science or research opportunities at Federal Laboratories and universities.
Lastly, the bill broadens the participation of rural students in STEM by emphasizing place-based learning, which gives students direct access to the STEM knowledge present in their communities and local environment.