A West Virginia treasure, the National Youth Science Foundation, is struggling to raise three-quarters of a million dollars — $150,000 a year for the next five years — to create the state’s top center for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
Hurrah. We hope this campaign succeeds, because high-tech learning offers a bright prospect for Mountain State youths.
The computer-driven modern age involves a mind-boggling array of special careers requiring STEM. From robotics to wireless linkages, from biometrics to seismic geology and digital modeling — these and hundreds of new fields need high-tech skills.
For decades, the National Youth Science Camp, run by the foundation, has enhanced West Virginia by bringing the nation’s brightest teens to the mountains for training and fun.
Now the foundation has a golden opportunity to pursue a larger, year-round function. The $18 million, government-owned, Canaan Valley Institute center in Tucker County has become mostly vacant. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has invited science camp leaders to submit a proposal to assume ownership of the huge Canaan Valley facility.
The large complex could become a spot where West Virginia’s brightest young science stars receive special high-tech training. Also, it would be a permanent home for the longtime summer national camp. To operate and maintain it, the science group will need $150,000 per year for at least five years.
We hope West Virginia philanthropists and corporations support this plan. The Legislature always provides tax money for the summer science camp, and we hope it adds more for the STEM center. Maybe West Virginia’s members of Congress could acquire federal funding.
The snowballing Information Age is pulling the economy into high-tech fields that are difficult to grasp and predict. West Virginia must prepare for the rapid changes. Creating a state STEM hub would be a good start.