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Washington Spotlight March 2010


Engineering Education Bill Introduced in the House and Senate

A bill that would strengthen engineering education in K-12 schools was recently introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R.4709) and the Senate (S.3043). The bill was introduced by Senators Edward Kaufman (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY).

The Engineering Education for Innovation Act (also called the E2 for Innovation Act of 2010) implements many of the recommendations of the recent National Academy of Engineering report, Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects. This report suggests that the introduction of more engineering concepts into the K-12 classroom has potential to improve student learning and achievement in STEM subjects, increase awareness about what engineers do and of engineering as a potential career, and boost students’ overall technological literacy.

The bill authorizes the Secretary of Education to competitively award planning and implementation grants for educational agencies to integrate engineering education into K-12 curriculum and instruction. It also funds the research and evaluation of such efforts.

SWE has supported this legislation since its inception, and in a letter of endorsement to the bill’s sponsors, SWE President Nora Lin said, “Engineering knowledge is critical to U.S. innovation and solving the country’s future technological problems. Yet many K-12 students, especially girls and students from underrepresented groups or who are economically disadvantaged, and their teachers have little knowledge about the engineering design process or the many career possibilities in engineering. We also strongly commend your leadership in recognizing the critical role of diversity in the future of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce in this legislation.” To review the entire letter, please visit the public policy section of SWE’s website.

In a recent floor speech, Senator Kaufman said, "As a nation, our future success depends on our ability to produce a greater number of engineers. Job growth and the future of the American economy requires our continued ability to lead the world in innovation as we tackle the grand challenges of the 21st century – from clean water to life-saving cures for diseases and biomedical developments to green energy. Much of the answer lies in classrooms across the country. This legislation will give schools nationwide more incentive to implement science and engineering education into K-12 curricula."

Please visit Senator Kaufman’s website for more information about the E2 for Innovation Act.


EWeek Future City Finalists Join President to Call International Space Station

Several student finalists from the Engineers’ Week Future City competition recently joined President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders at the White House for a "long distance" video call with astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). Following President Obama’s congratulatory remarks to the astronauts on the ISS and the Space Shuttle Endeavour on their successful ongoing mission, the Future City finalists were able to ask the astronauts several questions about the mission and being an astronaut.

This year’s EWeek theme, Engineers Make a World of Difference: Celebrate Volunteerism, is complementary to the President’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign and his emphasis on inspiring young adults to pursue excellence in STEM subjects.

The video and transcript of this call are now available on the White House website, as well as additional information about the President’s "Educate to Innovate" campaign.

Please visit the Engineers Week website for more information on the weeklong initiative and the Future City competition.


President Calls for New Steps to Prepare U.S. Children for Success

At a meeting with the nation’s governors in late February, President Obama outlined new steps to better prepare America’s children for college and the workplace. The President is calling for a re-designed Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that includes a comprehensive, new vision to help states successfully transition to and implement college- and career-ready standards by improving teacher preparation and development, upgrading classroom instruction and supporting high-quality assessments.

"America’s prosperity has always rested on how well we educate our children – but never more so than today," said President Obama. "This is true for our workers, when a college graduate earns over 60 percent more in a lifetime than a high school graduate. This is true for our businesses, when according to one study, six in 10 say they simply can’t find qualified people to fill open positions."

To better align ESEA to support college- and career-ready standards, the Obama Administration will integrate new policies into a re-designed ESEA, which will:

  • Require all states to adopt and certify that they have college- and career-ready standards in reading and mathematics as a condition of qualifying for Title 1 funding
  • Encourage states, school districts and other institutions to better align teacher preparation practices and programs to teaching of college- and career-ready standards
  • Assist states in implementing assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards, under a proposed new achievement assessment program
  • Support the expansion of the Race to the Top program, beyond its initial funding in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, to dedicate $1.35 billion in awards to states and school districts that have college- and career-ready standards in place
  • Support professional development for teachers, leaders and other school instructional staff to better align instruction to college- and career-ready standards

For more information about the President’s vision for ESEA, please visit the Education Standard Fact Sheet.

On February 18, the Democratic and Republican leadership of the House Education and Labor Committee also made an announcement about the Committee’s plan for ESEA reauthorization, saying, "Today, we’re announcing a bipartisan, open and transparent effort to rewrite No Child Left Behind – a law that we all agree is in need of major reform. It will start with a series of hearing in the coming weeks to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead as we work to ensure an excellence education is available to every student in America."

Visit the House Education and Labor Committee’s website for additional information on the plan for ESEA reauthorization.


White House Solicits Public Input on Grand Challenges of the 21st Century

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Economic Council are seeking the public’s input on how to harness science and technology to address the Grand Challenges of the 21st century. This request for information (RFI) follows the release of President Obama’s "Strategy for American Innovation," which outlines the Administration’s plans to foster innovation for sustainable growth and the creation of high-quality jobs.

The "Strategy for American Innovation" document also references the 14 engineering Grand Challenges associated with sustainability, health, security and human empowerment identified by the National Academy of Engineering and the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the Gates Foundation in the global health area.

Some of the Administration’s proffered questions for public input related to the Grand Challenges include:

  • Should the U.S. make it a priority to achieve this Grand Challenge? Why or why not?
  • What existing activities in the public and private sectors could the U.S. build on to achieve this challenge?
  • What are the most important gaps in the nation’s research and development portfolio that should be addressed?
  • What are the economic, ethical, legal and societal issues raised by pursuit of this challenge?

Please visit the OSTP’s RFI document to review more information, including how to submit a response by April 15.


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