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Purdue Prof urges early start to STEM education

Purdue Prof on STEM

Dr. Brandon Sorge on STEM

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As Indiana tries to curb a longstanding “brain drain” problem of young talent moving to other states, leading voices in education are urging parents and teachers to expose younger students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) topics.

“If we don’t have them interested in STEM by eighth grade, we’re probably not going to get them into STEM by then after that,” Dr. Brandon Sorge said during an interview with WISH-TV’s Daybreak on Thursday. Sorge is an associate professor for Purdue at IUPUI (soon to be Purdue University in Indianapolis).

Citing Women’s History Month, Sorge says he’s particularly concerned about girls and young women slipping through the system without STEM exposure. “So we really have to encourage them to be involved and experience these things early on in their lives that those kids were doing something that seems important to this as well.”

One of Sorge’s main areas of emphasis is developing a workforce that is able to thrive in a STEM world. The state’s challenges are well-known and stretch back many years. For perspective, Gov. Eric Holcomb has urged improvements in STEM education all the way from his first months in office through his last budget as governor.

Sorge says hands-on early exposure to STEM principles and projects is an important first step, but he also says it’s critical to allow students time to reflect and connect the experience to the real world.

“A scientist is not always reading in a book,” he says. “They’re doing things, they’re experimenting, they’re trying to be successful -and fail- at the same time, because we learn so much from failing! Providing these students that opportunity to really get their hands dirty, get involved in doing things and recognizing that it doesn’t always work the time doing it over again and then making that meaning out of it afterwards.”

As for older students, one recently-introduced Purdue program aims to help Indiana reap the benefits of STEM education. It offers grants of $7,000 to out-of-state students who stay to work and live in Indiana.