Can an 'X Factor for Tech' Get Kids Excited About STEM?
Will.i.am and Simon Cowell are on the hunt for the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
How do we turn science, technology, engineering, and math geeks into the rock stars of the 21st century? Given high demand for a STEM-proficient workforce, figuring out how to inspire student interest in those fields is a nut that pop star Will.i.am is doing his best to crack. He's plunking down his own cash for a STEM TV special, composing the first song to be beamed from Mars, and plugging STEM on the heels of the political conventions. His latest idea: harnessing the nation’s obsession with reality television by teaming up with Simon Cowell to create an X-Factor show for STEM.
"We're working on a project called X Factor for Tech—and it’s going to be out of this world," Will.i.am told U.K. paper The Sun, adding that they hope it "will help discover the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs." That kind of tech genius could potentially have a much bigger impact on the world than a pop singer who might only produce a couple Top 40 hits before fading into obscurity. After all, says Will.i.am, creating one singing star only generates a couple of jobs, but a real STEM wizard creates so many more.
As they’re hatching their plans, Cowell and Will.i.am might want to collaborate with the place that beat them to the tech reality show punch: MIT. This fall the school launched an online web series "ChemLab Boot Camp", which shows students competing to win a job working in a reknowned campus research lab.
The more like-minded individuals interested in bringing some fresh energy to STEM collaborating on the issue the better since, as Will.i.am says, the goal has to be "getting in touch with youth and giving them a platform to express themselves—whether that's in science or mathematics."