Congress Mulls a Mobile App Competition


According to the D.C.-insider blog, The Hill, a resolution will be introduced in the House of Representatives next week that calls for the creation of an annual nationwide STEM competition for students, beginning with a competition to develop mobile apps.

Sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), the resolution is intended to foster STEM education and innovation by giving congressional recognition to student work on STEM-related projects, thereby encouraging more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The resolution cites studies showing that less than one-third of eighth graders in the country are proficient in math and science, only nine states let computer science courses count toward high school graduation requirements, and only a third of the bachelor’s degrees earned in the United States are in a STEM field.

The resolution provides that the Committee on House Administration will set out regulations for the contest with help from outside experts and judges.

Ed. Note:

The House resolution is a positive step, but its most significant benefit may not be obvious to most congressional representatives, no matter how supportive they might be. 

–The resolution starts with a list of findings, the first being that “STEM fields and knowledge have been integral to the development of civilizations over the centuries.” Now there’s a factoid to make representatives sit up straight in their chairs.

–It goes on to find that “STEM fields have been and continue to be vital to a healthy and thriving United States.” Good lord! Imagine that.

–It further states that “STEM fields are even more important in a world and nation of continuous and rapid technological advancements and needs.” Egad! Can this be so?

The duh-now tone of the resolution makes one wonder just how many legislators could quickly decipher the STEM acronym. Only a handful of the men and women serving in Congress have backgrounds in STEM fields. That’s not a dig. Since when are C++ programming skills a prerequisite for passing pork barrel legislation and lunching with lobbyists? Okay, that’s a dig.

Notable representative geeks include Thomas Massie, Bill Foster, Rush Holt, Jerry McNerney, and perhaps Darrell Issa, who ran an electronics company. But they are the exceptions. Not only is the House not the most tech-savvy bunch, the Senate is completely unrepresented by legislators with a STEM background.  

[Two interviews in Literacy 2.0 underscore the issue of a lame tech Congress. See Vint Cerf and Howard Rheingold.]

The cool thing about this resolution is that there is an inadvertent value in the proposed competition. As the resolution states, the purpose is “bringing together Members of Congress and their younger constituents to participate in activities that will result in a deeper appreciation for STEM fields.”

Members of Congress and young STEMsters rubbing shoulders, talking code, swapping app ideas. Hmm. If the initiative comes to fruition, lawmakers just might get some of the education they so desperately need from the constituents they so eagerly serve.

 Original Photo: Nancy Pelosi's photostream

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