Engineering Showcases STEM Efforts to Iowa Lt. Governor

August 12, 2012

The University of Iowa College of Engineering hosted Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds July 27 at its Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD), where the state executive discussed with UI engineering leaders their efforts to engage young students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM.

Reynolds is co-chair of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s STEM Advisory Council, a 40-member board of appointees working to advance STEM education and innovation disciplines in Iowa.

Reynolds visited with high school students taking part in the Center for Computer-Aided Design’s annual Summer Institute.

“Our overarching goal is to increase interest and achievement in STEM disciplines,” Reynolds said. “There are great programs, just like right here, but we want to make sure that no matter where a student lives, they have access to those, and that’s not the case right now.”

Reynolds shared a computer with 14-year-old Zeid Qubain, a Jordanian student who is spending his summer in Iowa for an internship at the center. Qubain described to Reynolds his work with the Virtual Soldier Research project — a complex computer model created by CCAD that simulates human motion and is used by the military and private companies to study the effects of equipment loads and physical stress.

Reynolds said student enthusiasm in the STEM fields will not only channel more students toward high-paying, in-demand jobs, it will benefit the economy when students go on to establish new business ventures.

“STEM jobs are projected to grow at a larger margin than non-STEM jobs, so there’s a tremendous opportunity there,” Reynolds said. “And it touches everything — advanced manufacturing, medicine, bio-sciences, technology, financial. It touches all of those and they pay very well. We want to bring new jobs and grow the economy in the state of Iowa, but we also want them to be good jobs. We want the people that graduate from high school and college to stay in Iowa, and this will give them a good start in doing that.”

UI Engineering dean Alec Scranton said the college began to ramp up its outreach to elementary and high school students a few years ago, which has helped build a pipeline for future engineering students at UI. The initiatives include Project Lead the Way that equips high school and middle school teachers with new ways to promote engineering in their classrooms. UI also hosts an annual robotics competition, called First Tech Challenge, which Scranton said is another way to get high school students involved in science.