Other Voices

Meeting the STEM challenge at FWISD

How many times today will you look at your smartphone, your tablet or maybe your fitness tracking device?

How often do you use technology to send a quick message, look up information or find an unfamiliar destination?

Think of what your life would be like without these tools of technology. Consider also the hundreds of ways we are impacted every day by technology systems that govern our health, our transportation and our safety and security.

By 2020, our nation will experience a critical shortage of engineers and scientists who invent, design and improve the technology we rely on. Tarrant County faces the same challenge, with its strong aerospace industry and booming healthcare systems.

The need for qualified candidates in these roles is dire, and my fellow school board trustees and I believe it is our duty to ensure the Fort Worth school district inspires and engages students to pursue science-, technology-, engineering- and math-focused goals and careers.

Some students don’t see the direct correlation between increasingly difficult school subjects and relevant life experiences. They find themselves questioning when they will ever use the knowledge.

That’s why there is a national need for a systemic change in how we engage students and teach STEM subjects.

So what can we do to help solve the challenge and develop individuals who will impact not only our technology-heavy North Texas region, but also our state and nation?

Industry partners can be a big part of the solution as we work to provide every elementary, middle and high school in Fort Worth with engaging STEM curricula.

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday at Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School, Lockheed Martin will formally announce a $1 million pledge to provide Fort Worth ISD schools with the training and course materials necessary to implement high-quality STEM education programs for our children.

The curricula will be offered through Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization whose STEM curricula is being used in more than 8,000 schools nationwide.

Project Lead The Way is founded on the principle that teaching STEM is more successful when students are given a chance to apply what they know, identify a challenge, find unique solutions and lead their own learning in project-based curricula.

Fort Worth ISD students will learn by working on projects that relate to their everyday lives, while our teachers are supported with a robust professional development program.

The program also is an opportunity to remind our students of the benefits of STEM careers. In addition to being in high demand, STEM jobs pay well and offer avenues for greater professional achievement and economic security.

While few will be able to make a financial impact on STEM education like Lockheed Martin has, there are other ways to play an important role in developing our future engineers.

Talk to young people, encourage them to think outside the box, help them understand how they can make an impact in this constantly evolving world.

With the right education, the sky’s the limit for our students, and I’m excited for what their — and our — future holds as a result.

Jacinto Ramos Jr. is president of the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education.