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What STEM Advocacy Really Means (And Why It’s a Game Changer for Kids)

stem advocacy encourages this little girl to follow her dreams and pursue STEM-related activities

Advocacy of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in our education systems and communities is life-changing for young Texans.

Just ask Paula.

At nine years old, Paula’s favorite subject is math. Thanks to STEM advocacy, big opportunities are about to open for this bright young lady…

  • First, her teacher encourages her to join the school’s FIRST® LEGO® League team.
  • Two months later, Paula learns basic coding, fulfilling a robotics project that began as a seed in her imagination.
  • At a FIRST® event, she meets a fellow competitor and STEM enthusiast who will become a lifelong best friend.
  • Two years after the competition, she joins a team that wins third place in a Global Innovation Challenge.
  • After that, Paula graduates from college and joins an engineering firm to work on improving water service solutions in developing countries.
  • Paula sees the world.
  • A year later, she lands a job as an electrical systems engineer.
  • Six years later, Paula wins a Genius Award for her work in renewable energy.

All because of a teacher who saw potential and encouraged Paula to join a LEGO® robotics team when she was nine.

Paula’s story demonstrates what STEM advocacy can accomplish. It changes the lives of kids for the better, prepares them for college and careers, and transforms communities in Texas and around the world.

 

How FIRST® in Texas Prepares Kids for Life After High School

FIRST® in Texas is all about STEM Advocacy, and that means making amazing LEGO® robotics programs available to kids as young as six years old. In fact, there are four programs that young STEM geniuses can join between grade school and high school:

  • FIRST® LEGO® League Jr.
  • FIRST® LEGO® League
  • FIRST® Tech Challenge
  • FIRST® Robotics Competition

Each program brings students one step closer to succeeding in higher education and finding a rewarding career.

The data shows this to be true. For example, out of those who participated in the FIRST® robotics programs:

  • 83 percent are more confident in leadership roles
  • 78 percent feel better equipped at time management
  • 74 percent are more prepared for college courses
  • 78 percent are in STEM fields as adults (82 percent of male FIRST® alumni, 68 percent of female alumni)
  • 72 percent gain valuable access to peers and mentors in STEM
  • 54 percent study Engineering, 32 percent study Computers/Programming, 22 percent study Science, 11 percent study Math
  • 26 percent stay heavily involved in FIRST® and become mentors and coaches
  • 41 percent plan to get a Master’s degree
  • 34 percent plan to get a Bachelor’s degree
  • 10 percent plan to get a Doctorate
  • 90 percent of FIRST® participants feel they have gained valuable skills in problem solving and teamwork, which are essential skills for the workforce

That’s a lot of mind-blowing numbers!

 

STEM and the Texas Workforce

Texas needs STEM education more than ever as STEM takes a central role in the Texas workforce. For example, according to a report by the Texas Workforce Commission (under “Occupational Projections”), the top eight fastest-growing occupations in Texas through 2024 will all be STEM-related fields.

The Texas Workforce Commission is helping prepare students for these fast-growing industries through their support of FIRST® programs in Texas. Close to 5,000 students each year are able to learn STEM and soft skills through their participation on robotics teams while gaining valuable hands-on experience in a competitive environment at statewide competitions. These programs develop the foundational skills needed to find success in STEM-related careers.

stem advocacy helps a pair of young kids advance their futures

Building Blocks to Dream Careers

STEM Advocacy is a building block that prepares the way.

Someone tells a student about a STEM opportunity like FIRST®, the student joins a robotics team, gaining new skills, friends, and contacts, and thrives as a result of their participation in FIRST® programs. Next, that same student has access to scholarship opportunities available only to FIRST® participants. These scholarships further their education options. As a FIRST® alumni, they also have access to valuable internships, many of which are with FIRST in Texas Partners. Lastly, they have the type of resume which makes them highly sought after employee candidates.

Here are just a few of the STEM-related dream careers that are out there:

  • Chemical Technician: For this job, you’ll need an associate degree. The typical starting pay is $29,097 a year with an average pay of $50,437 a year. The job has low turnover, and there are 7,500 chemical technician jobs projected for Texas by 2024.
  • App Developer: For this job, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. The typical starting pay is $64,862 a year with an average pay of $99,827 a year. The job has very low turnover, and there are 64,862 app developer jobs projected for Texas by 2024.
  • Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operator: For this job, you’ll need a high school diploma or on-the-job training. The average pay is $39,065 a year. The job has very low turnover, and there are 15,190 of these jobs projected for Texas by 2024.
  • Civil Engineer: To become a civil engineer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. The typical pay is $97,903 a year. The job has low turnover, and there are 31,340 civil engineer jobs projected for Texas by 2024.
  • Environmental Scientist: To become an environmental scientist, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree minimum, preferably a master’s degree. The typical starting pay is $45,659 a year with an average pay of $84,553 a year. The job has low turnover, and there are 6,370 environmental scientist jobs projected for Texas by 2024.

 

STEM Advocacy is Texas Advocacy

STEM advocacy can change the course of an individual’s life. It paves the way to a successful future for kids like Paula.

But it also has a ripple effect on a larger scale. It transforms communities, even entire states. STEM advocacy means Texas workforce advocacy. It means Texas technology advocacy. Ultimately, it means you’re advocating for the Texas economy, which means a higher standard of living for everyone. It is a wonderful cause because it changes the lives of individuals, but benefits everyone.