America ranks 52nd in the world in the quality of math and science education. A recent survey found that just 2 percent of American high schoolers knew what a computer scientist's job entails. And 61 percent expressed no interest in a science or technical field.
Though programs like FIRST Robotics, NASA and trade organizations including the National Association of Manufacturers have campaigned long and hard to raise the public profile of STEM careers and classes, there's a long way to go.
"The United States was founded in a culture of curiosity, creativity and a can-do spirit," says Theresa Maldonado, of the National Science Foundation Division of Engineering Education and Centers, in a press statement. "Today's conversation is about helping students realize the connection between STEM and that enduring spirit. STEM education is vital to enable anyone and everyone to contribute, in his or her own way, to the great future of our country. Empowerment is the first step, and the National Science Foundation is here to support inspiring approaches to success."