The Pryor Times

Opinion

April 5, 2012

Science and Technology Month showcases research

Oklahoma Now

The state of Oklahoma has a host of talented, entrepreneurial people full of ideas and ambition. In laboratories, fields and garages across the state, our citizens are developing the products, technology and medical treatments of tomorrow.

April is “Oklahoma Science and Technology Month,” and it is a great time to reflect on the discoveries that are being made in our state and the jobs that are created from those ideas. Many Oklahomans would be surprised to hear that groundbreaking, globally-recognized work is being done in their home state. Cures for diseases, processes to improve the efficiency of energy production, better breeds of drought-resistant crops and astounding innovations in military technology are all being developed by Oklahomans.

A great example is the work being done in the field of Unmanned Aerial Systems — remotely piloted aircraft that carry cameras, sensors and other items used by both the military and civilian projects. The global UAS market is predicted to be a multi-billion dollar industry, and the rapid progress of Oklahoma’s UAS sector is attracting international interest. Our emerging UAS industry is fast becoming a model of successful collaboration between businesses, universities and state government all working together toward a common vision and goal to advance the state’s UAS and aerospace mission. To support that industry and build on our long record of success in Aerospace and Aviation, I have appointed a Governor’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Board to help guide the work being done in the state.

Innovative work like that being done in the UAS field is important, not just for the sake of supporting ingenuity and progress, but also for our economy. Science and technology jobs pay an average of 30 percent higher than the median per capital income in Oklahoma, meaning more research and progress in these fields means greater prosperity.

In order to support a vibrant research and technology sector, however, Oklahoma will need more students taking an interest in “STEM” courses, or classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

To support that goal, my office, along with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, has developed a recognition program to honor middle and high school students who excel in science. Science teachers can nominate students who show aptitude and an interest in science and technology. By recognizing these talented students early on, we hope to encourage them to take more STEM classes and consider a career in the research and technology sector.

When students interested in STEM fields go on to college, it’s important to make sure they get their degree and, after graduation, remain in Oklahoma. In order to retain these quality students and workers, OCAST offers the OCAST R&D Intern Partnership Program that enables Oklahoma college students to gain hands-on experience and employment in high-paying technology industries. These internships benefit employers and permit students to network and gain experience in the industry, work with mentors, learn to operate specialized instruments and build confidence. Often, those internships lead to permanent jobs after graduation.

Science and technology improves citizens’ quality of life and our state and local economies. Projects developed today create jobs, state exports and tax revenue tomorrow. Science and technology touches all corners of our state and advances each industry sector. From energy to agriculture and health to manufacturing, science and technology is an investment in securing Oklahoma’s future in the innovation economy.

For more information about OCAST, research happening around the state or if you are a teacher interested in nominating a student for the science and technology award, visit www.ok.gov/ocast or call OCAST at (888) 265-2215.

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