More middle-school students in the U.S. will learn more about careers in math, science and technology when the Science, Technology & Engineering Preview Summer (STEPS) Academies expands from five sites, which started as a pilot program in 2006, to 50 sites in 2007.
States with STEPS sites include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
The week-long, co-ed day camps, modeled after the STEPS Camps sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Education Foundation, offer innovative, fun and challenging projects, using curriculum developed by Project Lead the Way (PLTW).
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides pre-engineering curriculum programs in middle and high schools in the U.S.
Through the STEPS Academies, a joint program of the SME Education Foundation and PLTW, students are exposed to positive, hands-on manufacturing experiences in the hopes that these students will become interested in pursuing engineering-related careers.
The STEPS Academies goal is to help close the skills gap in the manufacturing workforce, projected to be a national crisis as more engineers retire, but fewer young people pursue careers in engineering.
It is predicted that manufacturers will need almost 10 million new skilled workers by 2020, according to a National Association of Manufacturers report.
"Middle school is ideal time to start students on the path toward a profession in engineering,” said Sherril West, SME Education Foundation President. "The first step is to expose students to math, science and technology before they have to select high school courses, which can limit their options when choosing a college major. By starting the investment in students 12 years before they graduate from college, the Education Foundation helps to fill the pipeline with skilled workers.”
The SME Education Foundation and PLTW plan to open 200 STEPS Academies by 2010.For more information on the SME's STEPS Academies click here.