U.S. Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., leaves his office in the House of Representatives with a departing triumph as Pres. Donald Trump signed into law an aerospace education bill which Knight sponsored — one encouraging more women to pursue a career path dominated by men.
Trump, on Dec. 11, signed H.R. 4254, formally titled the Women in Aerospace Education Act, which makes grant funds available at the university level for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program, commonly called STEM. Those dollars will come from Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grants, traditionally used by universities to fund the educational costs of STEM students who plan to teach in a rural or low-income school district.
Knight’s bill adds aerospace engineering into the mix and gears the money toward teachers at the elementary and high school levels who will encourage young girls to seek a career in aerospace.
Grant dollars, based on the bill, will apply to teachers who focus on aerospace engineering by gaining working and learning experiences at National Laboratories and NASA Centers. Those teachers, once certified, will share their knowledge with elementary and high school students, particularly inspiring girls to consider the aerospace field, by helping them understand the important role aerospace projects play in everyone’s life.
The bill also directs NASA to increase the promotion of its internship and fellowship programs to women through marketing and recruiting strategies.
Knight initially introduced the bill on Nov. 6, 2017, together with Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn. Their goal was to strengthen America’s aerospace industry by enhancing education in the early school years, to get more girls thinking about science, technology, engineering and math.
Members in the House of Representatives passed the bill in December 2017, within a month after it was introduced. Senate members passed the bill on Sept. 27 of this year, with an amendment that shortened the title of the legislation, based on information from the website www.govtrack.us.
“Creating a large and diverse pool of talent for our aerospace industry just makes sense,” Knight said in the early stages of the legislation. “When we engage girls at a young age and show them the possibilities of careers in STEM fields, it sparks a lifelong passion for science and discovery.”
Results of this legislation will help this nation maintain its status as “the preeminent leader” in the field of aerospace by strengthening the future workforce, according to Knight.
Upon learning that Trump signed the bill, presented to him on Nov. 29, Knight said, “I’m very happy that this bill received bipartisan and near-unanimous support in both the House and the Senate.
“Some of our brightest and most talented minds can be found in our girls and young women, yet they still represent just a small minority in the aerospace and defense industries.”
“By engaging them at a young age in the possibilities of space and aeronautics development, we can ignite a lifelong passion in these fields to help continue America’s leadership in all things that fly. This will not only empower our local talent, but also give a boost to our local industry and small businesses, who will have a larger pool of talent to draw from,” Knight said.
Knight’s legislation fits like a hand and glove into the newly released White House STEM education strategy, which focuses on maintaining the nation’s STEM leadership and emphasizes inclusion, diversity and workforce development.
STEM education’s 5-year strategy, released Dec. 11, sets a vision for all Americans to have “lifelong access to high-quality STEM education” making the United States the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation and employment.
Knight’s bill incorporates the female component as a significant part of the White House strategy.
Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the President for technology policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, called the strategy “a milestone for the nation,” as stated in the White House release. “In order to produce a wave of homegrown STEM talent capable of taking on the complex challenges of our time,” he said, “we need a lifelong approach to skill building.”
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, in that same White House release, “The balance of power on Earth depends on who controls the technology, who has the most advanced technology.”