STEM Roundup: Fewer Black, Latino Students Taking AP Exam

A roundup of science, technology, engineering and math news.

A new study shows that fewer female, African-American and Latino students take the AP exam in computer science.

A new study shows that fewer female, African-American and Latino students take the AP exam in computer science.

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WASHINGTON -- A new analysis of test-taking data finds that no female, African American or Hispanic students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science in Mississippi or Montana. Education Week reports that in 11 states no black students took the exam at all, and in eight states no Hispanic students registered for the test. AP is overseen by the College Board, data from which was compiled by Barbara Ericson, computing outreach director and a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech. Though the College Board notes on its website that in 2013 about 30,000 students took the AP exam for computer science, Ericson’s research found that less than 20 percent of those students were female, about 3 percent were African American, and 8 percent were Latino. In the 47 states where girls took the computer science exam, the percentage of female test-takers ranged from about 4 percent (in Utah) to 29 percent (in Tennessee).

Study: Adding Women to Symposium Committees Increases Promotion Rate

BRONX, N.Y. -- Noting the lack of female senior-level STEM college professors, a new study published in the latest issue of the microbiology journal mBio has identified a simple yet effective strategy to address the problem: put at least one woman on the team organizing a scientific symposium. Adding at least one woman on an organizing committee increased the proportion of female speakers by 72 percent, compared with symposia convened by men alone, according to the study. Arturo Casadevall, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, a study co-author, called it “a cascade effect”: a symposium speaker’s work gets recognized, increasing the likelihood of making connections, obtaining research funding and another invitation to lecture at a symposium. As an invited speaker, he said, “your reputation at your home institution also improves, and that helps your chances of promotion.”

Florida State University Gets $14.3M For Science Teacher Development Program

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Department of Education has awarded a STEM research center at Florida State University $14.3 million in grants to build a professional development program for teachers and increase the state's online collection of STEM curriculum resources, according to the St. Petersburg Times. FSU’s Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (FCR–STEM) is working with other university and education partners to create FCR–STEMLearn, a program that will produce two-week summer institutes to boost teach teachers' understanding of math and science and help them develop study teams at their schools.

LSU Researchers Studying Drones to Help Farmers Keep an Eye on Crops

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana State University AgCenter researchers are examining the possibility of using unmanned drones to help farmers monitor their crops from the air, The Associated Press reports. “The technology appears to be promising,” says AgCenter engineer Randy Price. He said a drone was used recently to take aerial photos to check freeze damage in a sugarcane field, and that the AgCenter hopes to send a drone equipped with a sensor to measure crop growth. Jimmy Flanagan, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Mary Parish, is learning to use a helicopter drone to fly over sugarcane fields to determine if adequate fertilizer has been applied. Flanagan says the drone would be useful in maturing fields of sugarcane and corn where it is difficult to scout tall crops for disease and insufficient fertilizer.

Can Non-Tech People Can Succeed in Tech Jobs?

WASHINGTON -- Since tech skills can be learned on the job, should non-tech people consider applying for STEM positions? An article in Mashable points out that positions in the technology industry are booming in major metro areas around the country – San Francisco had a 51.8 percent increase in tech jobs between 2007 to 2012, while New York City saw an 11 percent increase in the same time frame. Mashable reports that you don't have a tech-related degree or any direct experience but if you are smart and a fast learner, you can learn technology skills and gain experience on the job.



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