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ASME Receives Grant for STEM Outreach

PHILADELPHIA, April 3, 2013 — This summer more than 20 million U.S. students will enroll in a college or university – Only 16 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM -- majors.  Women and minorities will amount to less than one quarter of graduates.

Drexel University’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers wants to change that.

The chapter received an $1800 diversity action grant from their national organization for an outreach program to increase interest in engineering among minority middle and high school students in the Philadelphia area.

The group plans to hold an Open Lab Day, as a part of the citywide Philadelphia Science Festival, offering 150 middle and high school students the chance to become engineers for a day. The students will complete five hands-on laboratory experiments taught by Drexel engineering students. Each experiment will focus on a different type of engineering such as mechanical, electrical, civil, materials and chemical.

“Promoting STEM education benefits the already expanding field of engineering. Kids are more likely to pursue engineering if they've already developed an interest in science during high school,” said Leila Aboharb, president of the Drexel ASME chapter.

There’s more at stake than simply getting school children excited about engineering.  The National Math Science Initative found that STEM job creation over the next 10 years will outpace non-STEM jobs significantly. At the same time, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM fields had fallen by 18 percent in 2009 according to a 2012 study by the Senate Joint Economic Committee.  

Given the sharp decline in STEM graduates, experts believe it is crucial to expose women and minorities STEM programs early to help fill the gap.

 “Increasing diversity in engineering can prove extremely beneficial when designing innovative ideas. Every perspective brings a new idea to be explored and ultimately implemented,” Aboharb said.

ASME hopes their daylong event inspire some students to pursue a lifelong career in engineering. They will hold Open Lab Day on April 23.

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