Citing studies that show a marked decline in the number of students pursuing education in math, science and engineering, the Pentagon's Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting proposals for "innovative new ideas to encourage students to major in CS-STEM and pursue careers as engineers and scientists."

CS-STEM (Computer Science, Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is seen as a vital to keeping the U.S. competitive in the 21st-century global economy. Yet data routinely shows that American students increasingly choose nontechnical education paths.

In an RFP for a CS-STEM Education project posted Jan. 12, 2010, DARPA cites a study conducted by the Computer Research Association that found "there were 43 percent fewer graduates and 45 percent fewer [computer science] degree enrollments in 2006/2007 than in 2003/2004." The document also cites a 2008 New York Times article that found collegiate computer science departments reporting that women currently make up less than 10 percent of new computer science undergraduates.

The aim of DARPA's CS-STEM Education RFP is threefold, according to the agency. First, proposals should address means to enhance continuity among education institutions and existing STEM programs, such as NASA's Space Camp and the U.S. First robotics competition. Second, the agency wants proposals that detail innovative ways to reach America's diverse student population. Third, proposals must include methods to not only sustain student commitment to CS-STEM but also retain students educated in those fields.

DARPA said it expects to issue multiple awards, with up to $2 million available for each award, as well as an additional $500,000 in subsequent years. The window to submit proposals is scheduled to close on July 12.


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