Last week, one of the biggest trending topics on the web was, uncharacteristically, a math problem. A very hard math problem at that! It wasn’t so much the difficulty level that intrigued everyone; instead, people thought it was meant for fifth graders in Singapore. In reality, it was for advanced high school students. However, it did highlight for people how much ahead our peer nations are in K-12 education.
Singapore, along with a long list of Asian countries, has been focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for a long time, while US performance compared to other OECD countries, has been mediocre at best and remarkably bad in some areas. With an ever more technologically dependent world, this is bound to reduce US economic competitiveness unless something changes.
Lately there has been a strong push in policy circles and the general public for improving US school performance in STEM. It is not too difficult to understand why. Industries directly based on advancements in STEM fields hold the biggest promise for future growth. So how do we stay ahead of that curve? One important strategy is to focus on improvements and investments in STEM education. Planting and cultivating the talent in these fields early on. Supporting and expanding all the school activities and curriculum related to these.
More importantly, the general public has to begin holding scholastic achievements of students in the same high regard as the athletic achievements. An example is the First Robotics Championships that started in St. Louis today. It brings together some of most talented and dedicated students to St. Louis to compete in grueling match ups of robots that are no less in excitement than a playoff game of any major sport. The ingenuity and innovation built into each of these robots and the tenacity of the students who make them is remarkable. Students like these hold the keys to future growth for any city. And if St. Louis has to succeed in the global marketplace for talent, we have to be the central arena for these kids to come and compete and then decide to live and build their lives here. For the next few days, downtown St. Louis will have students from all around the world with their robots competing in a variety of tasks. It is an amazing event to witness, and if you haven’t made plans to visit yet, I encourage you to attend as many competitions as you can.
To the humans of St. Louis, get out and enjoy our visiting robots!