STEM Careers and US Competitiveness

We are not producing, in this country, in America, enough young people going into science, technology, and engineering— the fields that are going to be essential for entrepreneurship and innovation in the 21st century.”

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, Thomas Friedman

Student innovation in STEM can be fostered through innovative technology learning tools that harness their natural creativity.  Through elevated engagement and retention levels, virtual learning can play an important role in STEM learning.

The education systems and institutions in the US are not keeping pace with the demand for skilled professionals.

The facts are familiar:

  • U.S. secondary students rank 24th of 29 countries in solving math problems

  • The American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) reports that since 1985, the number of students in undergraduate engineering programs has either declined or remained relatively static.

  • Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. rank near the bottom of children from the industrialized world in math skills, ahead of only Portugal, Mexico and three other countries (Detroit Free Press)

  • The Experience Design Innovation Group says, “In a climate of poor performance in math and science tests and declining graduation rates in STEM related undergraduate degrees; the U.S. job market is demanding more STEM professionals.

  • According to a National Science Foundation study, between the years 1980 and 2000, the number of engineering and nonacademic science jobs increased by 159%. The study also reported that in 2003, there were 1.3 million engineering and engineering technology jobs in the U.S. that lacked trained people to fill them.

  • The US Government predicts that we will need 15 million engineers and technology workers by the year 2020. “

  • U.S. companies have been looking to other countries for scientists, engineers, and technology workers to fill the growing demand. India, China, and Germany lead the pack in providing migrant professionals to the United States.

Virtual learning opens a new window of possibilities in STEM education.  One widely acknowledged flaw of STEM learning today is reliance on theory and lack of concrete experiences in math and science, But what happens when students and able to  explore the inside of a human cell, float through the bloodstream, or play with Pythagoras’ ideas?

The 3D visualization properties of virtual learning make STEM ideas come to life.  Abstract concepts like gravity and the Cartesian Plane become experiences to be explored.  Eon Reality reports "Interactive 3D solutions have been shown to increase students attention levels by 92% and increase test scores by 35% – while at the same time creating a new level of engagement for students." 

Virtual reality and advanced 3D visualizations have long been proven to be among the world's most effective learning devices,   (www.hitl.washington.edu/scivw/youngblut-edvr/D2128.pdf) used by NASA, the US Department of Defense, and countless universities to enhance engagement, create cognitive models, and help personnel understand complex phenomena.  The Institute for Defense Analyses reports "Educating current and future generations of American Children to live in an information society is a critical issue.  It is compounded by the recognized need to provide life-long education for all citizens to support a flexible workforce.  Virtual reality technology has been widely proposed as a major technological advance that can offer significant support for such education. There are several ways in which VR technology is expected to facilitate learning. One of its unique capabilities is the ability to allow students to visualize abstract concepts, to observe events at atomic or planetary scales, and to visit environments and interact with events that distance, time, or safety factors make unavailable.The types of activities supported by these capability facilitate current educational thinking that students are better able to master, retain, and generalize new knowledge when they are actively involved."

Sure it sounds great and the promise has always been obvious, but cost and access has remained a formidable barrier.‎  Really only wealthy government agencies and research institutions have been able to use VR in learning.  SUNRISE has removed this cost barrier, offering VR for use free of charge. All students now have the ability to “Understand Everything” in STEM.