By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer

What’s needed to get public school students more interested in and enthused about science and technology was discussed by educators and professionals at a forum hosted by Rep. Richard L. Hanna this morning at the Griffiss Institute.

Rome School Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons said the existing "testing system" was too directed at multiple choice tests — a situation he said was driven by both the state and federal governments. He said more flexibility was needed in developing curriculum.

"The current system during the regular school year doesn’t have enough flexibility," he said after saying there needed to be more competitive grants for technology and engineering experiments.

Hanna, R-24, Barneveld, said government telling schools what to teach and how to measure success was the No. 1 complaint he heard from educators.

The program’s unifying point was Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program. STEM is an approach to education designed to teach subject areas such as mathematics and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum. Simons said it ought to be "more systemic than it is right now" in order reach a broad spectrum of students.

Holland Patent Superintendent Kathleen Davis said her district has been training staff and offering specials with a technology bent only to see grant money for such endeavours dwindle.

Dr. Gina Lee-Glauser, vice president for research at Syracuse University, said it was imperative to show students in the lower grades "how much fun it is to do engineering." She spoke of the need to show instructors how to teach science and math.

Herkimer County Community College President Ann Marie Murray agreed, saying there was "anxiety" among too many instructors in elementary schools when it came to science and math. She said teachers didn’t have to be experts, "just not afraid of it."

Jeffrey DeMatteis, STEM Program Manager at Rome Lab, said he had difficulties in signing teachers for STEM training.

"Teachers just feel ‘I’m too busy.’"

John Bay, chief scientist at Griffiss-based Assured Information Security, Inc., said the classroom focus on science and math needs to be "raised right up there with reading and writing."

He also said that the presence of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Griffiss business park and the companies that work with the lab should be brought into the equation with collaboration and partnerships.

"There thousands of engineers and scientists living here because of AFRL," he said.

Lee-Glauser said there was a pressing need to develop domestic talent locally, saying that keeping young people interested in science, math and engineering in the region would pay dividends for employers.

Bay noted that his company, which develops custom software to protect computer networks for a variety of federal government agencies from security breaches, is not allowed to hire foreign nationals.