The U.S. is no longer producing the workforce it needs to sustain its position as the most innovative economy on the planet.  A 2008 Congressional Research Service study revealed that among 15-year-old students, the U.S. ranked 28th in math literacy and 24th in science literacy. Something needs to change if the U.S. is to maintain its position as the world becomes increasingly cyber-centric.  We must ensure that our nation is producing the people we need in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The fact is, if we do not attract students to technical fields, later is too late to prepare them to enter a technical workforce.  If a student hasn’t been drawn to STEM in his or her teen years, we will seldom shape their choices.

But how do we do that?  How do we inspire and excite high school students to fields they often see as too difficult?  Why should they move down the rocky STEM road (think calculus, physics, and thermodynamics) when much easier paths call them?  The answer—I think—lies in the same innovation that has brought us what we have.

We must use the same ingredients to highlight the achievements of those who take on the challenges of robotics, science, and cyber competitions in our high schools.

Educators, organizations, and government at all levels must identify the things that excite students.  Nothing does that like competition.  We must use the same focus, attention, and energy that draws 7 million high school students a year to sports to draw our students to STEM competitions.  We must use the same ingredients to highlight the achievements of those who take on the challenges of robotics, science, and cyber competitions in our high schools.

American innovation has overcome nearly every challenge we have faced.  We can use that same innovation to excite students to enter the rich and rewarding STEM fields that call them.  A little team—and American—spirit can go a long way.