It was easy to see the future as about 500 area students launched pingpong balls and built and destroyed bridges.

The students, about 500 sixth- through 12th-graders from 10 area school districts, were having fun at the recent Math and Engineering Fair. The students also were developing an interest in the kinds of subjects that will fuel our nation’s economy.

Edna McMillen with Indian Capital Technology Center said the fair was designed to stimulate interest in STEM classes — science, technology, engineering and math.

Technological innovation accounted for almost half of economic growth in the United States in the past 50 years, according to Change the Equation.

Change the Equation is a network of more than 100 CEOs trying to create widespread literacy in STEM subjects.

According to its website,

• In 2009, just 34 percent of U.S. eighth-graders were rated proficient or higher in a national math assessment, and more than one in four scored below the basic level.

• In an international exam given to 15-year-olds in 2009, U.S. high school students ranked significantly behind 12 industrialized nations in science and 17 in math. Students in only four industrialized nations scored lower in math.

• Only 45 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2011 were ready for college work in math and 30 percent were ready in science.

Change the Equation says almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM.

Getting students interested in STEM subjects could create a more-prepared workforce — which could attract and retain better, higher-paying jobs.

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the Math and Engineering Fair.

A stronger Muskogee depends on our youth. Getting them interested in STEM subjects can only help our city.

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