Roadblocks to Student Participation in STEM — “no previous experience”

Two big points in this year’s survey stopped Schuler cold when he read them. First, 60 percent of respondents could name a reason not to go into a science and tech field. “They’re daunted by something,” he says, whether it’s that the path through school seems too hard, they don’t know anybody in those fields to look up to, or another reason. Secondly, Schuler says, nearly a third said they had little to no experience building anything hands-on, whether it’s a digital product like a website or a physical project like piecing together circuit. “These two are connected pretty strongly,” he says. Building cultivates DIY skills and kick-starts a person’s interest in making things.

Those numbers would probably alarm President Obama, who spent a chunk of last night’s State of the Union address hammering the need to enhance American STEM education as a means to boost the economy. Schuler says he was grateful that Obama made such a high-profile argument. “STEM is the foundation of technology, invention, and innovation,” he says.

But, Schuler says, it’s critical to remember that strengthening American STEM education isn’t just about churning out more Ph.D.s. Vocational-technology schools, junior colleges, and other institutions must help students reach their inventive potential, he says. “We need more of the bulk of the U.S. population appreciating STEM and thinking in creative ways.”

via Lyn Gomes