STEM courses are key to our economic future

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"But how am I ever going to use this in life!?"

Many a parent has heard that lament, or uttered the cry himself, while in the throes of completing a science homework assignment

Science, technology, engineering and math -- they don't call them the "hard" sciences for nothing. Unlike other so-called sciences, social and political come to mind, STEM courses have clear-cut answers to difficult answers, rarely open to interpretation.

Officials have worried about declines in American competitive when it comes to basic research that can have real-world applications when it comes to everything from the latest Apple gizmo to medical breakthroughs, energy efficiency, manufacturing and an endless list of other topics.

Need some examples?

They're easy to find with a check of the day's news.

Scientists were able to mine scarce satellite data to determine the likely path of the missing Malaysian airliner. Remember the Doppler effect -- that change in pitch when Dale Junior's No. 88 goes roaring by?

Experts used that change in frequency and intensity to crunch numbers in a new way to determine that the plane's flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

President Obama announced that the NSA would stop collecting gigabytes of data on our cell phone calls -- a system legions of techno-geeks designed and kept running, and one that hundreds of other technicians are probably working to secure.

The World Meteorological Organization used masses of data to create a United Nations report blaming human activity for recent extreme weather, and we're sure other scientists are working to debunk the report.

Technology plays a big role in our lives in Southwest Nebraska, as we reach out to the rest of the world through electronic communications, rely on radar and satellites to keep us safe during stormy weather, and depend on financial transactions most often carried out, to varying degrees, over the Internet.

Technology is key to transportation, agriculture and manufacturing in our community, and designing, programing and maintaining that technology is going to be an important source of employment for decades to come.

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