FIRST in Education Resources

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Full STEAM Ahead with FIRST!

There’s no denying sports and entertainment are big industries, and that a lot of youth get what we celebratewould love to become media celebrities, and sports stars. Public high schools put a lot of money into their sports programs, spending, on average, around $50,000-$75,000 per year, per school, on football alone, not counting coach salaries, security for games and other related costs. (In Texas, those costs can exceed $400,000 per year at some high schools!)

Image-10067894-225893102-2-Web_0_ca58b794a5ce242a88d841ea9fddb182_1But while it’s great to be athletically capable and it’s always nice to have some theatrical talent, the fact is that very few people ever have successful careers in sports and entertainment, and both fields are highly dependent on a very specific set of skills that exclude the majority of students. Despite the huge investment of tax dollars in school sports, hardly anyone will ever turn “pro.”

What are the Chances?

Consider these statistics (from

  •  There are over 1,000,000 high school football players across the U.S.
  •  But less than 6% of them will make it the NCAA level, and of those that do make it to the college level, less than 2% will turn pro.
  • And less than 1% of those million students have a chance of going pro right out of high school.
  • The percentages for success are similar, as well, for both men and women’s basketball, for baseball, soccer and hockey. (NCAA)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide a much cheerier picture for the entertainment industry, with projected employment growth of under 4% and only about 80,000 available jobs in the industry (compared to about 16,000 for sports) by 2022, with low median pay and unsteady work.

The Future of STEM

On the other hand, science and technology is a booming field in 21st century America. TheSTEM in FL outlook for electrical engineering alone, is robust and growing. It’s among the highest fields in job growth, with over 174,000 jobs, with a mean annual wage of over $96,000 a year. Other related fields include:

  •  Manufacturing
  •  Mechanical Engineering
  • Control Systems
  • Avionics
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Energy

Robotics salariesand many others.  What’s more, science and technology necessarily involve a lot of complementary fields of knowledge, skills and expertise that cross over into the 2- and 3-dimensional arts, communications, multimedia production, and more. Those who are well rounded across multiple fields, are technically literate, adaptable and have strong communications skills will do well in the future economy.

Investing school dollars and student time in more STEM related programming will provides a far higher return on the investment for schools, students and the community, with the potential for every involved student to “turn pro.” A 2011 Brandeis University study of FIRST participants found that involvement in the program:

  • Improved school engagement by almost 90%FIRST Impact 2
  • Increased interest in college by 90%
  • Doubled the likelihood of majoring in science or engineering for participating students
  • Inspired 33% of participating girls to pursue a major in engineering
  • Improved 21st century work-life skills in communications by over 75% and problem solving, time management and conflict resolution skills on average by 95%

FIRST brings the future here, now, and exploring – and supporting at all levels – the amazing opportunities in science and technology fields is good for students, good for our communities and good for our nation. – by Theresa Willingham, Regional Director, 2011-2017