eCybermission kids
2010 eCyberMission participants meet with scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. The eCyberMission, the largest online science fair for middle school-aged children, is conducted annually by the U.S. Army.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Capt. Cynthia Macri had some forceful language regarding the state of the country's education system.

"The United States has never been the world's leader in education except in our own minds," Macri said during a Department of Defense summit Feb. 14.

Understanding how the science of learning will help advance education was the focus of the quarterly summit. A panel of three scientists gathered to explore ways to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly known as STEM.

Aberdeen Proving Ground held a STEM summit Feb. 11 and focused on consolidating local resources in a collaborative approach.

Only 30 percent of Americans have a bachelor's degree and less than 4 percent of those students will earn that degree in engineering, physics, mathematics or chemistry, according to Macri, a medical doctor and special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations for Diversity of the U.S. Navy.

"It's the ability of our children to look at the world around them and aspire to achieve greatness," she continued.

The APG effort on STEM enhancement has centered on changing the culture to one that celebrates students and professionals in STEM fields. Macri touched on this aspect and how current outside influences continue to have a significant impact on a student's path of learning.

"Our children now limit their dreams to what is socially acceptable or just affordable. We cannot fix the entire education system. However, we can impact individuals. I think that's what we have to aspire to right now if we want to make a difference," Macri said.

Erik Russell of the National Science Foundation described at the DoD's summit how the National Laboratory Network helps establish STEM partnerships.

"In April 2009, President Obama addressed the National Academies and encouraged STEM professionals to get into the classrooms and bring the real world application of the concepts to the kids," Russell said.

According to its website, the National Laboratory Network is a nationwide initiative to build local communities of support that will foster collaborations among volunteers, students and educators. It aims to match K-12 educators with STEM organizers.

"The National Lab Network is about connections," Russell said.

Dr. Soo-Siang Lim, program director for the science of learning centers of the National Science Foundation, described how the six centers enhance STEM initiatives.

"In order for the centers to have their full impact, there must be a connection with the community so the information can be used properly," she said.

Page last updated Tue February 15th, 2011 at 16:15