Snyder praises program for making STEM fun

Gov. Rick Snyder tours the MDOT Transportation and Civil Engineering Bridge Building and Testing Challenge in Grand Rapids on April 18, 2017.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Rick Snyder was in Grand Rapids on Tuesday to show support for one of his long-standing priorities.

Snyder and Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle joined 600 students as they participated in one of the biggest STEM events in the state.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, an education focus that the self-described “nerd” governor is passionate about.

Snyder and Steudle spent a lot of time with students who designed, presented, built and tested everything from bridges to magnetic levitation cars and at least six other models as part of the Transportation and Civil Engineering (TRAC) Program.

“It’s actually a national program,” Steudle said of TRAC. “Michigan has the biggest program. The next state next to us is Mississippi and there are others that are really trying to build up to where we are because they recognize they need future talent” like engineers, consultants and other jobs that require STEM skills.

The idea of TRAC is to get kids interested in STEM-related jobs that are expected to be abundant in the future, not the least of which will be ongoing infrastructure needs.

“They’re making science fun and that’s a big part of this. It doesn’t have to be a burden, it doesn’t have to be something that scares you away,” Snyder said of the program.

“This competition is so important for getting middle schoolers and high schoolers really engaged and energized bout STEM education and understanding that math and science is fun,” Steudle said. “And frankly, in that room are the future engineers of the transport system 20 years from now.”

He noted that more than 800 teams applied to be part of the competition. In the end, just fewer than 200 teams from across the state qualified.