Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650

April 23, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- Geoffrey Orsak, associate dean of the SMU School of Engineering, joined representatives from Dallas-area corporations and educational institutions in testifying before the U. S. House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Research April 22.

The subcommittee came to Dallas to hold a hearing titled "Preparing a 21st Century Workforce: Strengthening and Improving K-12 and Undergraduate Science, Math and Engineering Education." Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas led the hearing.

Testimony gathered at the hearing will be used to craft a bill to help increase student participation and achievement in science, mathematics and engineering.

Orsak told the committee about the success that the award-winning Infinity Project has had in encouraging students of all backgrounds to pursue careers in engineering. The Infinity Project was started in 2000 by Texas Instruments and the SMU School of Engineering. The Infinity Project curriculum is currently being used in 10 states to introduce high school students to careers in engineering and technology. It also will be used as a freshman engineering curriculum in 14 colleges and universities across Texas through the new Texas Engineering Education Pipeline program.

Orsak said that 65 percent of high school students taking the Infinity curriculum reported a strong interest in pursuing engineering degrees. Of these, more than 50 percent were women and more than 50 percent were minorities.

Orsak said that engineering and technology have to be part of the "fundamental suite" of courses taught to students and agreed with other experts that money directed toward helping high school teachers upgrade their skills is money well spent. He said many schools still teach math and science the way it was taught 40 to 50 years ago and that science and math education "needs to evolve with the times."

Other experts testifying at the hearing included Narvella West, executive director for science for the Dallas Public Schools; Neal Smatresk, dean of science at UT Arlington, Sebetha Jenkins, president of Jarvis Christian College; Ezra Penermon, manager of workforce development for Texas Instruments; Elissa Sterry, deputy manager of public affairs for ExxonMobil Corporation; and Norman Robbins, community relations manager for Lockheed Martin.