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­.S. Tech Education Push Gets a New Techie Weapon

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Raytheon Co. Chairman and CEO William H. Swanson

"We need a robust pipeline of STEM graduates to enjoy what our generation has enjoyed," says Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson.

Credit: Raytheon Co.

Raytheon recently presented an open source computer simulation and modeling program designed to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to the nonprofit Business-Higher Education Forum. The Raytheon model uses more than 200 variables to assess the effectiveness of policies and programs to encourage students to pursue STEM paths.

"Our country is founded on creativity and innovation," says Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. "In order to have that in the future, we need a robust pipeline of STEM graduates to enjoy what our generation has enjoyed."

Brian Fitzgerald, the forum's executive director, says the use of a modeling program is a major departure from standard measurement techniques. Fitzgerald says the program will give the STEM promotion effort more relevant information, so efforts to improve STEM education do not rely on "policy by anecdote."

In 2005, 1.3 million high school graduates were academically ready for college, and 277,550 declared STEM majors, but only 166,530 were expected to graduate with STEM degrees. That 40 percent dropout rate is a major concern to U.S. educators and policymakers, Fitzgerald says. The Raytheon modeling program will enable researchers to explore data variables to see how changes could affect STEM graduation rates. The program is the first to use this type of computing, called systems dynamics modeling, on STEM education, says Kathryn Sullivan, director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy at Ohio State University.

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