MIT and FIRST Ally To Encourage STEM Education Careers

In an effort to inspire K-12 students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, as well as careers in the field, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has formed a strategic alliance with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit dedicated to building interest in STEM-related education via innovative means.

The cornerstone of the alliance is a pilot program to teach robotics to K-12 students after school. The MIT Alumni Association has said it will leverage its members, many of whom are leaders in the international STEM community, and their extensive contacts in hopes of recruiting many of them as FIRST coaches, mentors, volunteers, and sponsors.

"The MIT Alumni Association is in a unique position to further the shared mission, vision and values of FIRST," said Judith M. Cole, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the MIT Alumni Association. "This synergistic relationship with FIRST and its dedication to attracting and inspiring students with an interest in science and technology clearly puts the intellectual energy of the MIT community to work where it is needed the most, [towards] igniting the minds of young people."

While some reports have stated that significant percentages of new jobs created in the coming decade will be math- and science-related, a 2005 National Science Foundation study reported children would choose any of several dreaded activities, including cleaning their rooms and getting dental checkups, over learning math and science. Dean Kamen, winner of the National Technology Medal and inventor of the Segway personal transport device, founded FIRST in order to show kids just how exciting and rewarding science and technology can be. The FIRST-MIT after-school robotics program is just one of many potential opportunities to demonstrate this, according to the two organizations.

"Having a strategic channel that allows MIT graduates across the country to act as coaches and mentors for our students gives FIRST tremendous volunteer resources," said Paul R. Gudonis, president of FIRST.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.