Rep. Smith visits Memorial Early College High School
Lamar Smith, the U.S. Representative for Texas’ 21st congressional district, which includes most of the Austin-San Antonio corridor, visited Memorial Early College High School on April 10 for a question and answer session with students.
Smith, a U.S. Congressman since 1987, is the Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over the EPA, NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Aviation Admin-istration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Smith spoke to the school’s juniors and seniors, as well as the Robotics and CyberPatriot teams.
“I love talking to students about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education,” Smith told a group of about 200 Early College High School students. “The U.S. needs to do a lot better in these fields, especially in math, where we’re ranked 31st out of the top 35 countries worldwide, and science, where we’re ranked 19th. If we don’t get students to educate themselves in STEM fields in high school and college, we’re not going to be able to compete in the future.”
Smith said computer science is now considered part of the STEM curriculum as well.
During the question and answer session, Mercedes Castro asked Smith, “Do you see a future for women in STEM?”
Smith said that longstanding stereotypes, although not accurate, stand in the way of some women pursuing
careers STEM fields so they have to be ready to break down some barriers.
“I absolutely see a future for women in STEM fields, but you have to be proactive,” Smith said. “Although women test equally as well as men do in STEM fields, only 25 percent of women pursue degrees in STEM fields in college, so some of the old stereotypes exist. Your generation can break those stereotypes down.”
Sebastian Coronado asked Smith what the future held for NASA.
“We’re planning on going into deep space and we’re hopeful we’ll find a planet that can sustain life like earth can,” Smith said. “Within the next two years we’ll likely have trips into space that people can pay about $250,000 for that will leave the earth’s atmosphere and return the same day.”
Those comments excited Shylynne Curry, a student on the Robotics team.
“Hearing about the space program and learning that one day we might be able to find a future planet like Earth is very exciting,” Curry said. “Also learning that in my lifetime I might have the chance to travel into space is amazing.”
Dannette Young, College and Career Readiness advisor, said Smith delivered some powerful messages.
“I think the message Congressman Smith delivered on STEM was so important,” Young said. “He told our students exactly what they can expect when they get out in the real-world economy as adults in the future and that’s an invaluable lesson.”