I wholeheartedly agree with the President when he said in a recent interview with Popular Science that, “when young people are excited about science, technology, engineering, and math, that’s not just good for them. That’s good for America.”
This week is an example of fostering that excitement as the White House celebrates National Week at the Labs. DHS S&T will do its part to inspire and involve students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or what we call STEM. An education in STEM means so much more than sitting in a laboratory, it provides the necessary skills to enter the cutting-edge technology fields. This could be anything from a FitBit® to a self-driving car.
I see on a daily basis how important STEM is to our nation as the head of the research and development arm of DHS. We create technological capabilities for DHS components and first responders, like a 3-D printed robot to be assembled on site, allowing bomb squads to assess threats with minimal risk to others. Our world is ever-changing, and it wasn’t that long ago that a single computer could fill a room and was only operated by highly-trained scientists. Today, grade-school children use smart phones and tablets that can do the work of ten of those room-sized computers.
Just a couple weeks ago, I sat down with students at Thurgood Marshall Academy in DC to talk with them about the real-world value of STEM. We need to encourage young people to seek out STEM-related careers and ensure STEM skills are a part of their everyday development; you never know who is going to come up with the next self-driving car.
S&T supports the President’s efforts to encourage everyone, especially women and minorities, to pursue careers in STEM fields, and we always look for ways to create opportunities. We launched an initiative to increase outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as other communities of Minority Serving Institutions. S&T’s Centers of Excellence research network includes about 50 Minority Serving Institutions and stress the importance of drawing under-represented groups into STEM related fields. Additionally, our Workforce Development Initiatives help educate and train the current and future homeland security workforce in science and engineering professions through grants, internships and fellowships, and allow students an opportunity to acquire advanced technical knowledge and training that otherwise might not be available to them through the average classroom.
In the coming months, I’ll continue to speak to middle and high school students to empower and inspire today’s youth to seek out STEM careers, and fuel their curiosity through storytelling and live demonstrations.
The STEM students I meet are passionate and energized about pursuing all that is possible as we continue to make amazing technological strides. Their attitudes and vision will continue make our planet a better place for everyone, and I will do my part to ensure that every student feels that possibility to be on the frontlines of technology for his or herself. Right now, there is a student somewhere who will go on to be a leader in the sciences, perhaps even lead S&T here at DHS.
Dr. Reginald Brothers
Under Secretary for Science and Technology