Rural Communities Need Tools for STEM Education
Science, technology, engineering, and math – more commonly known as STEM – have become some of the most highly demanded careers in our nation’s economy. Schools across the country and in Central Washington have emphasized education programs to help prepare students for future careers in fields from chemistry and earth sciences to computer engineering and physics. Quality STEM education programs are essential to train the next generation of American minds.
Central Washington’s students are bright and many of them are interested in pursuing careers in computer science, technology, research, or engineering. While schools in our district offer many unique opportunities for learning, there is always room to grow.
At the Hanford Site, scientists and researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conduct workshops with local students about careers in nuclear science. The students’ enthusiasm for getting hands-on experience in this field was inspiring, which I witnessed firsthand when I visited the program with Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) earlier this year.
Industry collaboration is not limited to our larger population areas. In Quincy, students and teachers benefit from a partnership with Microsoft’s TechSpark Program, which has invested in schools to promote interest in technology and computer science, while fostering economic opportunity and job creation. Quincy’s TechSpark students work with local entities to develop skills for future careers in coding and learn about the need for pathways for students who are interested in computer science, especially in rural areas.
My office hosts the Central Washington Congressional App Challenge, where K-12 students are encouraged to compete against their peers to create an app that is displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year. I have received entries from across our district with winning students from middle and high schools, who have created apps that help match farmers with local labor and help users manage their money. Participation in the App Challenge further confirms that there is growing interest in these science and tech industries.
As the U.S. economy continues to thrive, we must work to promote careers in these important fields. As we develop the STEM workforce, we must give rural schools the tools they need to cultivate the minds and careers of our students. Unfortunately, rural schools face unique challenges in doing so – including a shortage of science and math teachers, high teacher turnover, and difficulty accessing computer-based technology.
I cosponsored the “Rural STEM Education Act” to help level the playing field.
Over nine million students in the United States attend rural schools and the “Rural STEM Education Act” provides resources to schools to address this underserved population.
By advancing research and development for STEM educators, promoting hands-on learning for students, and providing opportunities for broadband investment, this bill will give rural teachers, students and communities the tools they need.
By enhancing STEM education in rural schools, we are creating opportunities for Central Washington’s students to compete for high-paying jobs and strengthening our international competitiveness. I am proud to represent the hard-working students and teachers of Washington’s Fourth Congressional District and I look forward to continuing to work to promote rural STEM education.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., represents Washington’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. To send an email to Rep. Newhouse, go to https://newhouse.house.gov/contact.