TUE 4:00 PM Plenary - Science and Technology

Full Report:

The Tuesday afternoon plenary session kicked off a series of presentations during the conference that would be accompanied by a special session (on Thursday) on the theme of dwindling interest and supply of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) capabilities in the US, while the existing STEM workforce ages and has to replaced. This plenary session highlighted the role of system dynamics in examining the underlying issues and strategy options through two presentations. The session took place in the Alvarado Ballroom and was attended by nearly one-hundred-and-twenty-five participants. The session chair was David Ford from Texas A&M University.

STEM Pressures from Birth to Globalization: Five Related Models, by Paul Newton, Michael Richey, and Mohammad Mojtahedzadeh
The first presenter was Paul Newton, from Boeing, who discussed a paper that he wrote with his colleagues Michael Richey and Mohammad Mojtahedzadeh. The paper served a dual role. First, it provided a comparative assessment of five independent modelling efforts that deal with various aspects of the STEM problem: Boeing’s RAGS model, Raytheon’s College Flow Model, Brandeis and MIT’s model on the causes of decline, SiMBlox NIH’s model of the decline in the age of PIs, and Sandia/Boeing’s model on attractiveness of STEM careers. Second, it provided a detailed view of the Rising Above the Gathering Strom (RAGS) model being developed at Boeing. This model is based on a NAS report and provides the context for framing the other four models. The underlying behavioural mode captures parallels between the rise and fall of US prosperity and US STEM capabilities, now and in fifty years. A number of policy alternatives involving education, immigration, and R&D investment have been examined. The presentation also brought up some criticisms of the current state of the modelling effort.

Using System Dynamics to Model Student Interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, by Hernando Sanchez, Brian Wells (Presenter) and Joanne Attridge
Based on work done at Raytheon, this paper sets up an aging chain of school and college students using systems engineering methodology to examine various strategies for improving student interest and flow into US Colleges and, eventually, into STEM careers. A number of policy options are explored, including altering teacher attrition patterns and barriers to forming effective social networks. The authors conclude that modeling is a viable option for assessing policy changes in this space.
Both the authors identified a vision for next steps. This was followed by thoughtful Q&A segments that raised issues such as gender equality, lack of data sources, and others. Those who wish to get involved in this topic ought to check: www.stemnetwork.org.

Nitin R. Joglekar