When my son reached high school and I found that their only "computer" class available covered word processing, spreadsheets, etc., I was very disappointed that no programming class was available.When I was in high school, I had a computer science major before I graduated (2 semesters of programming in the high school and 6 semesters – 3 hours a day for a year – of programming at a cooperative program with a nearby "career center").When I went to college for electrical engineering, this was a significant advantage – though the languages were different, I was able to pick up and use the new programming concepts much faster – and generally better than most of my classmates.
I found that no high school system in our county or the neighboring counties offered ANY programming courses.Microprocessors are part of a high percentage of all products – from phones to refrigerators.It blows my mind that most school systems have not made this available in one form or another in high schools.I seriously believe that high schools should be offering classes for PC oriented programming and firmware oriented programming – e.g. a robotics elective.I would think that these would be well accepted by today's students and many might actually get excited about learning because of this availability.
Think of the mentality change - from looking for an "app" for something - to creating an "app" for something.Isn't that the mentality change we need for our future innovators?
I love Mythbusters, and I volunteer with a group of youngsters that build robots for challenges. I think as nice as it might seem to have Hollywood help I think it is up to the likes of you and me that must help STEM become cool. We can all help geeks and nerds become cool.
I too am for the government support of STEM programs. I also agree with the concept of no gaurantees. I think the key lies in efficiencies. Right now it is believed that outsourcing is the way to go because it is cheaper. However, anyone that spends any amount of times working with vendors, suppliers, whatever overseas quickly discover the total cost is actually increased by going over seas. It will take some time but I think the accountants will figure out that the key lies in efficiencies, not in short term cost savings.
Mentoring of STEM students would seem to be the best way to stoke tech future. I have been fortunate to have taught engineering economics to sixth graders through Junior Achievement, and mentor a robotics team for BEST (Building Engineering, Science, and Technology). The way the kids responded to teaching/mentoring was incredible. Folks, many of us were fortunate enough to remember the achievements of the "Space Age". Young people these days don't have anything like it that is front and center, but they are very excited when an engineer takes time with them! Government won't fix this completely; it will be each person making a difference, one on one.
The "Three Rs" may have been enough 60 years ago. It isn't any more. We are getting into an increasingly technical society. I have to deal with more and more people who can't use a computer. They read and write fine. Basic math is not the obstacle. They can surf the Internet like champs. But, they have no clue as to what a computer can do operationally speaking, and it is keeping them from effectively doing their jobs. If they are struggling just to use the tools, they will never be able to compete with those who can. A business that doesn't implement an MRP system because they don't see the value will find themselves at the mercy of a company who has 30% fewer employees because they can use the computer effectively.
Competition is a ruthless race. Companies that can't make the best use of their resources will quickly find themselves falling behind. That means increasing automation, whether we like it or not. That, in turn, means that people have to be able to make good use of that automation, or they will be out of a job with nowhere to go. We have to be teaching kids how to create intellectual property and how to understand it and use it. The simple truth is routine jobs are going away. If you aren't an artist, an engineer, a technician, a sales person, or a CEO, your job is at risk (even lawyers are getting more desperate). All of those jobs, except certain kinds of artist, require technical understanding. Even sales people need to understand what they are selling, or they will never be able to sell to a knowledgeable buyer.
Yes, that's a real problem in academia, Jon. I teach part time in the journalism dept. here in New Mexico, and I see the same problem. Most of the instructors have not been in the real world for decades. Bless their hearts, they're dedicated to teaching, but their real-world experience is decades old. The problem is complicated by academic departments that are averse to bringing in practitioners to teach.
It isn't just a matter of forcing people into the engineering mold. There will always be people that lack the interest for that, and that is good. We need artists and performers to help make our lives pleasant. But even they can benefit from the right STEM education. I think there are three different benefits to STEM education. First, math and science (especially math) promotes disciplined thinking and sound reasoning. Those are skills that anyone can learn and everyone benefits from. When I say they can learn them, I don't mean that they will be easy for them. People who work by free association and "gut feel" will find it a terrible drag, but that is far from saying they can't do it, it is just a matter of buckling down and proceeding step by step. They benefit by becoming less vulnerable to arguments based on feelings instead of facts, or arguments with logical errors. That is good for anybody. It doesn't mean that they have to give up their favorite mode of thinking, just that for the important stuff they have to take a little time off to sort things through. Being able to do that is a big plus for anyone.
Second, having at least a good overview of how the world really works is a huge benefit to anyone in leadership as well as technical positions. If congress had a clearer picture of science, they wouldn't waste their time on so many hair-brained schemes or delay action on important environmental issues. If more of the people in Hollywood had a good idea of what science was really like they might not try to sell us on dreams that will actually hurt us.
Finally, some people will take to this stuff like a fish takes to water. If there is good support for them, they will be the engineers and inventors that will make the latter half of this century better than the beginning.
Hi, Rob. If we need more "coders" or programmers, I lay the blame at the foot of computer-science departments. Kids might get a great academic education, but we need programming craftsmen and craftswomen. Although not a CS major, I took a CS course in grad school to learn more about good programming practices and techniques. The teacher used the Pascal language for examples. Did any real projects use Pascal? Probably not. Some people might argue that if you can program in one language, you can program in all. Not so, in my experience.
I also took a computer-architecture from the EE department. I expected gates, registers, flip flops, etc. No such luck. The teacher used an APL derivative, AHPL, or a hardpware programming language. All we did was write this unreadable pseudo code to do computer operations. The students complained so loudly that the course never got taught that way again. So things have improved, but many academics have little sense for what goes on in the real world and what industries want in science and engineering grads.
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