How We're Inspiring Inventors and Entrepreneurs

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed which first appeared in The Des Moines Register.

To succeed in our innovation-based economy, where good ideas and the entrepreneurial spirit shift our paradigms of living, from smartphones to driverless cars, we must make education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) a priority. In less than 10 years, our country will need 1.7 million more engineers and computer scientists. We must inspire our young people on the promise of STEM for our country to maintain its preeminence in the global knowledge economy, ensuring job growth and our economic competitiveness.

This week, leaders and school districts throughout Iowa joined forces with my agency, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to make sure teachers and policy makers continue a concerted effort to inspire more young students to enter STEM fields and become the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. It's a fitting lead-in for Thursday's Iowa STEM Day at the Capitol, here in Des Moines, which celebrates STEM accomplishments and opportunities across the state.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and I visited Bettendorf High School to support this effort. Bettendorf is one of 14 Iowa schools that hosts Camp Invention each summer, a weeklong summer enrichment program sponsored by the USPTO and Invent Now, where elementary school students get hands-on experience designing, prototyping, assembling, testing and refining a new invention made from household parts like old typewriters and computers. This annual summer program reaches more than 100,000 elementary school-aged kids every year in all 50 states, sparking in them a passion for design, creation and invention.

Through initiatives like Camp Invention, our collegiate inventors competitions, and the Girl Scouts intellectual property patch, which we are working to scale nationally, we reach every stage of the pipeline to STEM. And as the president pushes for "Computer Science for All," we are working with cities, nonprofits, coding boot camps, incubators, schools and all other entities that provide computer science training to build upon regional efforts from the National Science Foundation to make coding more accessible across the country.

The full text of this post can be found on The Des Moines Register website.