Marching for Science: We need STEM education and educated policymaking

Apr 28, 2017 by FIRST Alum, Melody Tan

The following article was originally published on

On April 22, scientists and science supporters gathered at Sam Houston Park for the Houston March for Science. March for Science, which took placeSubscribe in cities all over the world including Washington D.C.LondonBerlin, and Tokyo, was organized as a “celebration of science” and a “call to safeguard the scientific community” from partisan denial of evidence-based science. The Houston marchers started at Sam Houston Park and ended at City Hall, where we gathered to hear from a series of speakers, including Texas Medical Center physicians, university faculty, and high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. While it was encouraging to see an estimated 15,000 people turn out, it was sobering to remember the reasons our action was necessary. A sign reading “I can’t believe I’m marching for facts!” captured this sentiment.March for Science

But March for Science was not the only celebration of science in Houston that morning. Just a mile away at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the 2017 FIRST Championship was underway. FIRST is a program founded by inventor Dean Kamen, which uses robotics competition to get high school students excited about STEM fields.

More personally, FIRST was my own introduction to engineering as a high school sophomore, and without it, it is unlikely I would have ended up in my field of bioengineering. It was exhilarating to watch high school students driving around the robots they had built and enthusiastically cheering on their teams like at any sporting event — there I could see the promising future of STEM.

For most of my life, I have shied away from marches and public demonstrations, like many scientists, choosing to spend my time working on engineering projects and research. But, as the robotics competition reminded me of the potential of our next generation of STEM leaders, decisions being made by our government in disregard of scientific facts leave me increasingly nervous that by the time these kids grow up, they could be living in a society and with a government that no longer values their field.

I spent the day going between these two events — apprehensive at one, optimistic at the other, and altogether convinced of the importance of dedicating my efforts towards both STEM education and shaping public policy.  

Melody Tan is a Rice University Bioengineering PhD student and Baker Institute for Public Policy graduate intern for the Center for Health and Biosciences.

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