Today Subcommittee on Research and Science Education Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL-05) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL-03), Ranking Member, held a field hearing in Madison, Alabama to explore local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs and partnerships. The hearing, titled STEM Education in Action: Local Schools, Non-Profits, and Businesses Doing Their Part to Secure America's Future, examined the impact of these programs and partnerships on the next generation of STEM professionals, local jobs, and the U.S. economy. Today's hearing was also historic, as the first Science, Space, and Technology field hearing ever conducted in Alabama's Fifth District.
Praising the region's excellent schools and research institutions that provide high tech education and employment opportunities, Chairman Brooks said, "North Alabama is an ideal place to promote STEM education," adding that Alabama's fifth district "can serve as a model for the rest of America."
Further emphasizing the importance of STEM education as a top priority for North Alabama's economy, Chairman Brooks stated, "Our commitment to STEM education is exemplified by contributions to STEM programs in the community by the University of Alabama-Huntsville's Propulsion Research Center and related scholarships and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center'seducational programs, as well as many other local initiatives supporting STEM programs for students ranging from elementary through high school."
Several witnesses testified about the importance of collaborations and community support to successful STEM education. Dr. Camille Wright, Director of Secondary Instruction for Madison City Schools, said "In today's fast-paced world, so many of the jobs our students will hold don't currently even exist. This means that our students need to exit high school with the ability to think, collaborate, make decisions and innovate." Along these lines, Dr. Wright said, "It is important to develop a culture that embraces the concept "community of learning' from the schools, to the family, to industry and throughout the community."
Dr. Robert Altenkirch, President of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), further stressed the need for educators to give students a broader view of how STEM disciplines become a foundation for high-tech jobs. "At younger ages -- elementary and middle school -- we need to help students gain a better appreciation of what engineers and scientists do," Dr. Altenkirch said. "Outreach efforts by UAH faculty and staff are giving them opportunities throughout their K-12 career to engage in STEM career type activities (design, programming, etc.). This will allow us to develop more integrated approaches and programs that build on one another so that students can anticipate future activities as they progress into later grades."
According to statistics published by the National Science Board, as of May 2010, there were over 202,000 occupations in Huntsville, Alabama, and the median annual wage was $48,000. Eighteen percent (or 35,500) of those occupations were in STEM fields, and the median wage for those jobs was $86,000 - nearly twice the average of occupations overall. Witnesses today advocated for communities to explore creative ways to improve STEM education activities, in order to ensure the nation's future prosperity.
Chairman Brooks concluded by saying that "an essential element of future U.S. economic prosperity is a competent, skilled workforce - one that we cannot achieve without strong STEM education efforts, particularly on the local level."
The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:
Dr. Camille H. Wright, Director of Secondary Instruction, Madison City Schools
Dr. Robert A. Altenkirch, President, University of Alabama, Huntsville
Dr. Marilyn C. Beck, President, Calhoun Community College
Dr. Neil Lamb, Director of Educational Outreach, HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology
Mr. Andrew Partynski, Chief Technology Officer, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
For more information on today's hearing, or to read witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.
For download-friendly photos for media use, please click HERE.
Below is Rep. Brooks' Opening Statement:
The Honorable Mo Brooks (R-AL), Chairman
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Subcommittee on Research and Science Education
Field Hearing on
STEM Education in Action: Local Schools, Non-Profits, and Businesses Doing Their Part to Secure America's Future
April 30, 2012
"Good Morning. I want to welcome everyone this morning to the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education field hearing, STEM Education in Action: Local Schools, Non-Profits, and Businesses Doing Their Part to Secure America's Future.It is a privilege to be with you to highlight and discuss local STEM education programs and partnerships and to examine their impact on the next generation of STEM professionals, local jobs, and the U.S. economy.
"It is also my pleasure to welcome my colleague on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, Congressman Dan Lipinski of Illinois. I have enjoyed working with him the past 15 months and am grateful for his willingness to travel to be here with us today.
"I want to thank Bob Jones High School and Madison City Schools for hosting us this morning and for providing this wonderful facility as well as each of our witnesses for taking time out of their busy schedules to testify before us on issues of importance to our community and to America.
"I remember hearing the loud roar and ground shaking from Saturn V rocket testing on Redstone Arsenal in the 1960s. Many here probably attended Space Camp.
"These and other science-based events have shaped the fabric of this community and America.
"I have had the privilege of serving Alabama's Fifth Congressional District for the past 15 months and am proud of the science and technology achievements North Alabama has provided to American exceptionalism.
"NASA and our Marshall Space Flight Center have led American exceptionalism in space. We were instrumental in putting Americans into space and onto the moon. We were instrumental in the development of the Space Shuttle -- a three-decade workhorse unmatched by any other nation on earth.
"Redstone Arsenal's numerous commands have played a key role in developing the gee-whiz-bang weapons that help America's war-fighters achieve military success with minimal loss of American lives.
"Tennessee Valley businesses and top of the line schools and research institutions give our citizens high tech education and employment opportunities as good as any offered in America.
"As such, North Alabama is an ideal place to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- or STEM -- education, and it is my hope that our district can serve as a model for the rest of America in this regard.
"As you may know, our Subcommittee has jurisdiction of essentially all non-defense and non-medical research and development activities of the Nation. This includes oversight of agencies like NASA; the Department of Energy's Office of Science; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service; portions of the Department of Homeland Security; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and the National Science Foundation, which provides approximately 40 percent of all non-medical basic research at American colleges and universities, including support for STEM education.
"The research these agencies fund is important to our Nation's economic success, but at the same time it is also critical to note that America faces unsustainable budget deficits that constitute our greatest economic and national security threat. By way of emphasis, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Service Committee last year that our Nation's biggest national security threat is our deficit.
"Mr. Lipinski and I may disagree on certain policy issues, but I am confident he would agree with me that we must do more to alleviate our deficit. Likewise, I am sure he would agree with me that an essential element of future U.S. economic prosperity is a competent, skilled workforce - one that we cannot achieve without strong STEM education efforts, particularly on the local level.
"Today, we will take a closer look at a few of the STEM education partnerships and initiatives being executed by Tennessee Valley schools, businesses and non-profit organizations.
"Also noteworthy are the efforts of other local schools and organizations not testifying before us today. For example, this Subcommittee had the privilege of hosting Christine Sutton, a teacher at Grissom High School, in D.C. last year to discuss Grissom's robust cybersecurity curriculum. In addition, Aerojet, through the GenCorp Foundation, is strongly committed to STEM education in the Huntsville community.
"Our commitment to STEM education is exemplified by contributions to STEM programs in the community by the University of Alabama-Hunstville's Propulsion Research Center and related scholarships and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center's summer camp, as well as many other local initiatives supporting STEM programs for students ranging from elementary through high school.
"I could cite numerous other examples, but it is clear that STEM education is a top priority for many in our area. I am proud of what this community has been able to accomplish and look forward to learning more about these remarkable initiatives. Thank you all again for joining us today."