STEM and People with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities often face challenges to pursuing careers and degrees in STEM. They are underrepresented in STEM fields. This video by the DO-IT program out of the University of Washington is an overview of STEM and people with disabilities. DO-IT and BreakThru are National Science Foundation Alliance projects. Instead of creating barriers think that STEM helps to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Why earn STEM degrees or take STEM classes?

We live in a STEM universe. We are controlled by the laws of nature, physics, and math. It is almost impossible to graduate with any kind of a degree without taking STEM courses. That may sound like an exaggeration, but here on 21st Century Earth the study of STEM is more exciting and important than ever.

Even a science-fiction movie could not be made without STEM experts. Special effects, computer modeling, graphics, robotics, and the sci-fi storyline ideas all come from and require STEM knowledge.

There are very few professions that not only benefit from STEM smarts but require them if you want to succeed.

  • Want to work in the music recording industry?
  • Do you believe we can make solar power to replace fossil fuels?
  • Want to take care of animals? Want to help heal people?
  • Got an idea for a new video game or social web site?
  • Do you want to invent a new kind of electric instrument?
  • Want to help the victims of natural disasters rebuild?
  • Want to predict the weather?
  • Want to make a car that gets 100 miles per gallon?
  • Want to invent a new video game?
  • Do you have the next big Internet idea?

These all require STEM. We use what we learn and invent to make the world better, safer, more fun. While much of what we accomplish may begin in the classroom, those who want more out of life never let it end there. Learning never stops, but our excitement about learning is up to us.

It’s up to you to be Learner-centric

If we’re really lucky we’ll have several teachers who inspire us and get us excited about learning. However, you can make learning fun and exciting for yourself. Take charge of your education; create your own classroom; do your own research; ask the big questions. With the Internet you never have to be alone in your endeavors. With Mentoring and BreakThru you will find more worlds and opportunities opening up for you.

BREAKTHRU is a Mentoring and Empowering Program

Female student experiencing anxiety

Too many students have been told that STEM is too hard or that they aren’t smart enough to do good work. STEM can be difficult, but it is made too difficult by poor or lazy or misguided teachers. STEM study is for everyone even if you don’t intend to pursue a career in one of the disciplines.

Too many students are not aware that they can do real science at any age, that they can do research on important issues, that they can help map the universe, that they can make a difference. And make a difference today, not four years from now, but today.

Mentoring can certainly help you with your classes, but more importantly, mentoring can help you apply what you have learned in STEM classes to the things, projects, and ideas that excite you.

BreakThru can help you gain the confidence that others have denied you. Numbers aren’t scary; science isn’t scary; computers and technology aren't scary; and a car or building aren’t scary. What’s scary are those who teach us to aim too low, to be afraid of the world around us, to be on the outside looking in. STEM is your doorway to new worlds both real and virtual, and BreakThru is your guide to those worlds.

BREAKTHRU: A Virtual and Real World Experience in STEM

Each student participating in BreakThru will have a mentor assigned. Students and mentors will have virtual face-to-face interaction at least 1 hour/week. Mentors and students may also combine their time for larger group discussions or tutorials.

Part of the mission of BreakThru is to empower students with disabilities to enroll and succeed in STEM classes or programs.

BreakThru is also working on a range of conversation topics meant to empower students in life as well as learning. Some of these conversations include Test Anxiety, Procuring Financial Aid, STEM Study Skills and Taking Quality Notes. Mentors will also be completing BreakThru conversations, and teams can use the content to guide discussions during mentoring sessions each week.

Second Life – students, mentors, guest presenters, administrators and others will meet on the BreakThru Island. Second Life is a virtual world where users create their own avatars (representations of themselves) that move and interact with others and the environment. Besides serving as a mentoring platform, it will also enable communication among the BreakThru community. Everyone will be given training in using Second Life as an interactive learning environment.

The top 25 degrees and median salaries (2009) are listed below.*

Degree Starting Median Salary
Aerospace Engineering $59,600
Chemical Engineering $65,700
Computer Engineering $61,700
Electrical Engineering $60,200
Economics $50,200
Physics $51,100
Mechanical Engineering $58,900
Computer Science $56,400
Industrial Engineering $57,100
Environmental Engineering $53,400
Statistics $48,600
Biochemistry $41,700
Mathematics $47,000
Civil Engineering $55,100
Construction Management $53,400
Finance $48,500
Management of Information Systems $51,900
Computing and Information Systems $50,900
Geology $45,100
Chemistry $42,900
Marketing $41,500
International Relations $41,400
Industrial Technology $49,500
Environmental Science $43,900
Architecture $42,900

Black Widow Nebula in Space

*From the PayScale.com 2009 survey on the best college bachelor's degrees according to salary.

Even a quick glance will show that these are all STEM degrees. You can search the Internet and find other lists that include one or two non-STEM degrees, but overwhelmingly, to be employed with a bachelor’s degree, your best choice is a STEM discipline.

There are exceptions to everything, but if you are undecided about the future, think seriously about majoring in STEM.

Flexibility of Career:

A STEM degree does not lock you into only one future path. Professionals with STEM degrees find it easier than those with degrees in humanities to switch careers. Professionals in STEM can become teachers/professors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, research, authors, environmentalists. But even professionals in the arts need or use STEM to create everything from cave paintings to laser shows and virtual worlds.