Last week the Brookings Institution hosted an event titled ‘STEM Education And Future Generations Of American Inventors, Technologists, And Explorers’. The event featured NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST. The topics they covered included the state of STEM education across the country, why making it a national priority is critical, and how educators and policymakers can better promote STEM in the nation’s future workforce.

The portion that most struck me was when Dean Kamen discussed super heroes and role models. That portion was summarized nicely in an article by Brendan Orino, here is an excerpt…

In a world without the NBA, would American children spend hours a day dribbling a basketball? No, thinks Dean Kamen, who says that while schools fulfill the “supply side of the equation” by teaching math and science, the demand from students is missing. “I don’t think most American kids ever saw the real value, the excitement, the fun of science and tech because we’ve created role models and superheroes elsewhere,” he explained.

This resonates with me – ask almost any kid about a sports superhero and they will be able to respond instantly with multiple names across multiple sports. But if we asked about their favorite scientist or engineer or programmer or mathematician they would likely be stumped! Kids can only be what they can see – if we want to inspire kids to pursue STEM we need to get them excited about STEM. Learning about role models in exciting STEM jobs is one way to do this.

So I would like to issue a challenge to all of us parents and teachers – let’s think of ways we can build our kids’ knowledge of STEM superheroes. Perhaps it is as simple as picking one past or present STEM professional each week and talking to your kid about that person. Here are a few resources to get you started…

  1. The names and bios of the current International Space Station crew
  2. A list of Nobel Laureates by topic (Physics, Chemistry, & Medicine)
  3. A summary of famous software developers 

What ideas do you have on how to boost our kids’ knowledge of STEM role models? I would welcome hearing any tips or resources you have (laura at!