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Begich Supports Innovation Inspiration Legislation

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Standing with robots designed, built and operated by high school students, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D -- New Hampshire) today to announce new legislation aimed at increasing student interest and proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields.

Sen. Begich is an original cosponsor of the legislation called the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program Act to promote innovative educational programs like FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics. FIRST, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, works to inspire kids to study STEM related fields by hosting technology and robotics competitions nationwide.

"Preparing kids for our 21st century economy can't wait until college, where our STEM graduation rates lag far behind our global competitors," Sen. Begich said. "Programs like FIRST Robotics, which has spent over 10 years in Alaska, are a perfect example of how we can make STEM education a real and regular part of our schools. Giving kids hands-on experience with technology will prepare them for an education and career in the fields that will drive the future of our economy."

In Alaska, 54 teams participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge, the highest per-capita number in the country. Additionally, 131 teams from 75 schools statewide compete in Alaska's FIRST LEGO League for children ages 9 -- 14.

Recognizing there will be an estimated 8,000 job openings in STEM-related jobs in Alaska by 2018, Sen. Begich last month introduced the Effective STEM Teaching and Learning Act which focuses on preparing American students for a global economy by establishing competitive grants to help states develop comprehensive STEM strategies.

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