AUGUSTA – Maine’s nationally recognized robotics teams and STEM student leaders were honored by Governor Paul R. LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen this morning in a ceremony that reinforced the need for students to better develop the skills that will make them – and Maine – competitive in a global economy.
Representatives from businesses always eager to hire high-wage workers with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as STEM – including Pratt & Whitney, Jackson Labs and Mid-State Machine Products, as well as the Manufacturers Association of Maine, joined the Governor and Commissioner for the celebration in the State House Hall of Flags.
Students on robotics teams at schools in Auburn, Brewer, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Mount Desert Island and Oakland showed the Governor how their robots could throw Frisbees and climb steep slopes before he presented them with his second-annual Governor’s Promising STEM Youth Awards.
“Today, it’s your education, but tomorrow, it’s your job,” Governor LePage told the students. “The future of our great state is in the young minds here in this room. My job is to make sure you stay here. Your job is to prosper. The STEM education you are experiencing today will open the doors to good paying jobs for you tomorrow and allow you to come up with great answers to the very difficult problems we face.”
Others receiving recognition from Governor LePage included Ryanne Daily (Dirigo High School) and Kelsey Burke (John Bapst Memorial High School), Maine’s two delegates to the 2013 National Youth Science Camp; Mary Butler (Bangor High School), Meagan Currie (Greely High School) and Harry Pershing (Greely High School), who competed at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair; and Nathan Dee (Bangor High School), who will be representing the state at the National Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition in Oregon next month.
Pratt & Whitney HR Manager Deborah Chipperfield said the North Berwick-based company sees its future building jet engines in Maine and supports STEM skill development efforts here to ensure they have the skilled workforce they need to continue growing.
In the next decade, it is estimated one in seven new Maine jobs will be STEM-related and the wages associated with the jobs in these areas are 58 percent higher than wages for other Maine occupations, the Education Commissioner said.
“We have tremendous resources for STEM education in Maine and there are tremendous opportunities in STEM careers,” said Commissioner Bowen. “As the state works to develop a highly-skilled workforce and increase its competitiveness in a global economy, we have to better connect those by fostering the collaborations you see here today between PreK-12 schools, Career and Technology Education centers, higher education and industry. And the success of these students and their robots nationally and even internationally help us imagine what is possible if we are successful in that.”
One such partnership is Project Login, launched late in 2012 by Educate Maine with the UMaine System with the goal of doubling the number of Maine graduates in computer science, computer engineering, and information technology in the next four years. That project is supported by businesses like IDEXX Laboratories, WEX, Maine Medical Center, Unum and TD Bank, who need the skilled Maine workers this effort will cultivate.
Wednesday’s awards are yet another opportunity developed by Governor LePage, Commissioner Bowen and the Maine Department of Education to promote the STEM-related innovation of Maine’s students and the contributions they will one day make to the economy while raising public awareness about the importance of STEM skill development.
The state has also been a leader in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards, a rigorous, internationally benchmarked standard for science education that will ensure science content and concepts prepares critically thinking students for the colleges and careers of the 21st century.
For more information about STEM from the Maine Department of Education, visit www.maine.gov/education/maine_stem.htm.