Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Sen. Kaufman Discusses the Engineering for Innovation Act

February 25, 2010

Mr. President, I rise today to support the Engineering Education for Innovation Act, or E-squared for Innovation Act. I am proud to cosponsor this bill with Senator Gillibrand, introduced today, along with Senators Snowe, Cantwell, Klobuchar, and Murray. This bill will help us meet the engineering education challenges I have often spoken about on the Senate floor by awarding, planning, and implementation grants to States to integrate engineering education into their K-12 curriculum and instruction. It also funds the research and evaluation of all such efforts.

I believe we are at a crucial moment for science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM education. Today's engineers have a central role to play in developing the innovative technologies that will help our economy recover and promote real job growth. In turn, we must promote policies and programs that help to generate greater interest in STEM and actually lead to the production of a greater number of engineers.

Last year, the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council released their seminal report on engineering in K-12 education. According to their report, K-12 engineering education can improve student learning and performance in science and math and increases students' technological literacy. It can also increase awareness of the engineering profession and boost student interest in pursuing a career in the field.

The report stressed the need for greater coordination among key stakeholders to develop common definitions and grade level appropriate goals for engineering education. It also emphasized the need for more research on the impacts of engineering education and potential models for implementation. The E-squared for Innovation Act seeks to address these recommendations in three ways.

First, the legislation awards planning grants to State educational agencies to review any existing engineering education resources in the State and to develop implementation plans to integrate K-12 engineering education into curriculum and instruction. Grantees must coordinate these activities with a number of partners, including the Governor's office, institutions of higher education, teachers and administrators at public elementary and secondary schools, and other relevant players in the State.

Second, the E-squared for Innovation Act provides implementation grants to State educational agencies to carry out a number of activities, including developing academic standards, curricula, and assessments that include engineering; recruiting and training qualified teachers to deliver engineering education; and investing in afterschool engineering education programs. Priority will be given to applicants who serve a significant percentage of student populations underrepresented in engineering.

Third, the bill charges the Institute of Education Sciences with conducting research and evaluation on the grants awarded. These studies will determine the effectiveness of the programs and activities at improving student achievement in STEM education and assess how successful programs can be replicated.

The E-squared for Innovation Act is supported by a diverse list of 77 organizations. To name a few, supporters include the National Center for Technological Literacy, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education, IBM, Intel, the University of California, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers--just to name a few. I am truly amazed but genuinely pleased at the wide-reaching support for this bill.

Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, expressed strong support for the E-squared for Innovation Act, adding:

One of the many reasons our nation does not seem to attract young people into engineering is that many seem to have no idea what an engineer does. Although we attempt to teach math and science in K-12, seldom do we expose students to engineering.

Many in my home State recognize this problem and, consequently, support for STEM programs is growing in Delaware. Governor Jack Markell recently launched a STEM education council in Delaware to bring together teachers, business leaders, curriculum specialists, higher education representatives, and others to focus on innovative STEM programs and curricula that engage young people in Delaware in STEM education. The council will assist in Federal grant applications for STEM-related programs and support effective professional development programs in STEM areas.

In STEM-focused schools across Delaware, students are learning how to extract DNA from fruit, build robots that can throw balls, perform forensic investigations, make ``slime'' and lip balm, and more. It is through these types of comprehensive, hands-on activities that we will get young people interested in tackling and learning STEM subjects and eventually pursuing engineering jobs. The E-squared for Innovation Act is just the kind of program we need to bolster these activities in Delaware and ensure more students nationwide have access to these exciting engineering opportunities.

I cannot stress enough how much I believe this Nation is at a crossroads in STEM education and that this is our opportunity to push forward and create an environment that will cultivate and encourage our next generation of engineers. They will foster the research and innovation that will help us solve challenges such as clean drinking water, lifesaving cures for cancer and disease, renewable energy, affordable health care, and environmental sustainability.

Our country is counting on these future engineers, and the E-squared for Innovation Act is a step in the right direction to support and encourage them.

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