The May 14, 2007 edition of our local Edmond Sun newspaper carried an article on page 2 titled, “Aerospace fueling economy.” (I can’t find a link to the actual article online, unfortunately.) Several things from the article stood out for me.

Aerospace engineering jobs are very important in Oklahoma. According to the article:

The aerospace industry accounts for about one in 10 jobs, employing about 150,000 Oklahomans, according to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, a state agency. [Victor] Bird [director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission] said the average salary in the industry is about $55,000, which is almost twice the average salary in the state.

The article relates the importance of attracting more engineering graduates to the state of Oklahoma, since engineering graduates from the state’s major universities are in short supply relative to the available jobs. The article points out the American Airlines aircraft maintenance facility in Tulsa employs about 8000 workers, and some companies (like Boeing’s facility in Oklahoma City) are heavily focused on “the engineering side of the aviation business.”

Oklahoma state legislator Mike Jackson from Enid has proposed legislation (House Bill 2085) which would “provide an income teax credit for incoming aerospace engineers in the state.”

My thought and response to this is, more than legislation for tax credits, we need to be working hard TODAY to motivate the next generation of engineers, scientists, and inventors who will carry our economy into the 21st century but are sitting behind school desks today around our state. The NASA Digital Learning Network is focused on helping motivate the next generation of engineers and scientists to study mathematics and science, and pursue their passions to learn, explore and innovate as professionals later in life. I’m looking forward to facilitating the first videoconferences with NASA I’ve personally helped set up in two weeks in Edmond. I see a direct connection between the workforce needs (and opportunities) highlighted in this article and what we are doing (or not doing, as the case may be) with NASA and science in our schools.

Next year I’m hoping in one way or anther to get involved helping start a robotics club at my kids’ school, or at least helping my own children and others learn more about Lego robotics, learning how to design, build, and use their own robots.

We need to focus as much energy and attention on helping get our school-age children interested, motivated, engaged and active (with hands-on activities) in the real work of scientists and engineers, as we are expending today on test scores.


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  • http://www.btcsmn.org Jill Elfering

    I know there is a wealth of information about starting a robotics (Lego) program, but we recently started one at our school for middle school students. If you would like more information, feel free to email me and I can get you in touch with our facilitator.

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