Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

On the Senate Floor, Sen. Kaufman Celebrates National Lab Day

May 12, 2010

Mr. President, I rise today, to celebrate National Lab Day. While today is the official National Lab Day kick-off, National Lab Day is much more than just one day. It is an ongoing effort to bring scientists and engineers into the classroom to conduct hands-on experiments with students.

Last November, President Obama launched the ``Educate to Innovate'' campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, education. As part of this effort, President Obama announced the launch of National Lab Day and encouraged Americans to get involved. Created through a partnership between Federal agencies, foundations, professional societies, and other STEM-related organizations, support for National Lab Day grew quickly. Currently, projects are scheduled in every State, including over 1,000 schools.

I have spoken many times on the Senate floor about the importance of STEM education. I advocated for the inclusion of increased service opportunities for retired engineers and other STEM professionals in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. National Lab Day is an important step towards creating strong, long-term relationships between STEM professionals and educators.

Importantly, National Lab Day projects are teacher-driven. Teachers can register at the National Lab Day Web site and request funding or describe a project they would like to do with a STEM professional. Teachers can have STEM professionals help them assess, update, and repair current lab facilities and equipment, implement hands-on activities, conduct science fairs, mentor students, coordinate field trips, assist with lesson plans, and more.

Once teachers post their requests on the National Lab Day Web site, they will be matched with a list of local volunteers who have registered on the Web site. Volunteers need not only be STEM professionals, as university STEM students and other members of the community can sign up to help as well. Volunteers can browse teacher requests and will be notified of any matches to teacher requests that meet their interests.

A quick look at the projects posted on the Web site reveals intriguing titles such as VEX Robotics, Tech Genographics, Space--the Final Frontier, and Get Ahead--Design a Shed, to name a few. The Office of Science and Technology Policy blog recently highlighted a National Lab Day project that took place at East Side Community High School in Manhattan. With the recent major BP oilspill in the Gulf of Mexico, this particular lab was especially timely to students. A local college professor taught 10th graders how to clean and purify ``contaminated'' water made of tap water mixed with dirt, flour, salad dressing, and dish soap. This is exactly the type of hands-on experiment that National Lab Day promotes to expose young people to the real-world applications and wonders of STEM.

Support for National Lab Day is extensive. Key partners include: the National Science Teachers Association, American Chemical Society, MacArthur Foundation, Hidary Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Additionally, more than 200 educational, scientific, and engineering organizations support National Lab Day, including such groups as the National Education Association and the Association for Women and Science.

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins is participating in National Lab Day by volunteering in a local District of Columbia school and he has encouraged NIH employees to get involved as well. American Society for Engineering Education President J.P. Mohsen is participating in National Lab Day and is encouraging other ASEE members nationwide to do the same in their local communities. First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted National Lab Day when she spoke to the team finalists at the National Science Bowl.

I have said many times that I believe the long-term vitality of our economy rests with our ability to use STEM to solve the major problems we face. Whether it is energy independence, climate change, life-saving cures for diseases, security challenges, or new solutions for transportation, STEM professionals are the world's problem solvers. Fortunately, young people today want to ``make a difference'' with their lives, but unfortunately, not enough of them see STEM as the way to do that.

National Lab Day will allow STEM professionals not only to share their unique skills and knowledge with educators and students, but it will also allow them to share the rewards of a career in STEM and the numerous ways that STEM professionals ``make a difference.'' National Lab Day, and the relationships it is fostering, will help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. I applaud the volunteers, teachers, associations, and agencies that are participating in National Lab Day--today and in the future.

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