Recent studies indicate that we as an industry and as a nation must set our sights on improving student performance in math and science. U.S. students are being outperformed by their counterparts in other economically competitive nations in Asia and Europe. This will give those nations a leg up in the global, knowledge-based economy. Other studies show that U.S. university enrollments in engineering are steadily dropping.
These studies are disturbing to America’s manufacturing technology industry because all the innovations the industry has introduced—and all the good things we as individuals enjoy today—were the results of a solid foundation in science and math. For years, we led the world in engineering the highly sophisticated machine tools and manufacturing systems that produce the highly technical airplanes, spacecraft, automobiles, computers and all the everyday timesaving household gadgets that give us the wonderful life we enjoy.
Scientific development and innovative thinking are key ingredients for the success of manufacturing technology in America. In many parts of the world, people don’t have what we have here, but they definitely want it. There is a general apathy amongst Americans and a feeling that our education system is superior those of to other nations. The recent studies indicate that a wake-up call is needed for industry leaders and the general public when it comes to our country’s preparedness in science and mathematics. We must shake ourselves awake before the productive manufacturers of our high standard of living drift away from the United States.
The Third International Mathematics and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R) was recently released. Of the 38 countries that participated in the 1999 study, the U.S. was 19th on average math scores and 18th on average science scores. Countries in the top five in math were Singapore, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR and Japan. The top five countries in science were Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Hungary, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The poor showing by the United States will hopefully galvanize the American business and industry community to step up efforts to improve math and science achievement, curriculum and teaching.
It is important that the manufacturing technology industry heed this TIMSS-R warning. We must focus particularly on math and science in all our efforts related to education at any level. One small step AMT is taking is to show math and science teachers and students how the principles they are teaching or studying in the classroom are used in the real world of manufacturing. The Student Summit at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) hosted math, science and manufacturing technology educators and students. The industry hopes that the technology shown at IMTS turned on young minds to the various opportunities that manufacturing technology careers offer. This was an opportunity to learn firsthand how the math, science and technology principles studied in school are applied in the world of manufacturing. For educators, it was a way to build real world examples into their lesson plans and to add to their arsenal of answers for those students who ask: “Where will I ever use this stuff?”
Attending the Student Summit at IMTS also helped change many of the misperceptions that school administrators, educators, parents and students may have had about careers in manufacturing. When they saw the high level of sophisticated technology at IMTS, and after talking with the professional industry representatives, many left IMTS with a whole new perspective.
The Student Summit at IMTS exposed students and educators to all levels of career possibilities. They had an opportunity to interface with highly skilled workers, electronic and software technicians and engineers, chemical and metallurgical professionals, computer programmers, technical sales and distribution specialists, and management professionals from this dynamic industry. The industry professionals showed students and educators how important studying math and science is to the future of manufacturing in America. Math and science are the basics that will determine where innovation takes place in the future.
Those in our industry should do what they can locally to stress the importance of math and science at all levels of education. They can also encourage educators to go to the Student Summit page on the IMTS Web site (www.IMTS.com) and hopefully to start planning now to come to the Student Summit at IMTS 2004.