WASHINGTON—“We are going to put on the largest science and engineering party that the United States has ever seen,” said Larry Bock, executive director of the USA Science and Engineering Festival, at the Koshland Science Museum at the National Academies in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29.
But this is not just fun and games.
“In this society, we celebrate Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and we generate a lot of them. But we don’t celebrate science and engineering,” said Bock. And as a result, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of Americans going into science and engineering, according to Bock.
Bock is mobilizing 25 Nobel Laureates, 100 other scientists and engineers, and 550 organizations to get the attention of Americans and build a powerful momentum toward the upcoming nationwide festival starting on Oct. 10 involving 49 locations across the U.S.
The nationwide festival will culminate in a two-day expo on Oct. 23 and 24, centered in and around the National Mall in Washington, DC. The purpose is to educate a wide range of Americans and to inspire a young generation of Americans to take a greater interest in science and engineering.
Alarming Trends for the U.S.
In one of Larry Bock’s e-mails to supporters of the festival he wrote: “According to Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, by the end of 2010, 90 percent of the world’s scientists and engineers with advanced degrees will live in Asia; 80 percent of the people being trained in the advanced physical sciences in the United States are from abroad.”
“Because the opportunities are now greater abroad, we are no longer retaining them in the USA. If we do not turn this trend around, we will have outsourced innovation,” Bock wrote in an e-mail to The Epoch Times and others on Sept. 15.
“America’s competitive posture in this world is changing, and it’s not going in the right direction,” said Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He spoke at the Koshland Science Museum on Sept. 29, during the festival preview and press conference.
“This nation needs to strengthen its commitment to science and engineering; after all, this is the knowledge age,” said Dr. Vest.
“We need more engineers and scientists to drive innovation, to add real value, and above all to create 21st-century jobs for real people.”
A nation that is ranked as low as the United States on the quality of its K-12 science and math education “is not going to lead the world,” according to Vest.
Relevant to a Wide Range of People
The organizers of the festival believe that interest in and inspiration for doing good science and engineering should start early in life. So, the prime target of the massive national campaign is for K-12 grade students.
However, this is not just for kids.
Teachers and parents will benefit from the festival too, according to Francis Eberle, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
According to Dr. Eberle, teachers can learn about and help students in the latest developments in science and engineering, which cannot be replicated in the classrooms. Parents can also learn at the festival in an unstructured way, and provide “fantastic opportunities for their own children,” he said.
Science and Engineering Are Not Enough
Dr. Vest spoke of the big and grand challenges facing us today such as dealing with energy, water, food, and climate. “These things can’t be solved by science and engineering alone, but they cannot be solved without them,” he said.
Wallace Loh, the next president of the University of Maryland, College Park, starting this November, agrees and goes further. He also spoke at the Koshland Science Museum on Oct. 29.
“To make an impact, we have to address the issues of culture, of values, of ethics, of attitudes. … To really develop a culture of innovation and science and engineering, we have to nurture the spirit and the arts and humanities because that is what broadens the sense of excitement and curiosity and imagination,” said Dr. Loh.
He says that among the many exhibits at the festival, what is “vitally important” is the opening event of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center with children singing “Powers of Ten.”
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