Dreaming of a Death Star? Perhaps a STEM Career Instead?

Apparently my nephew (along with more than 34,000 others) signed a petition over the Christmas break to urge the U.S. government to secure resources and funding to begin construction of a Death Star by 2016. The Administration refused on the basis of a few slight matters, including an estimated cost of $850,000,000,000,000,000 (that's a lot of zeroes). My favorite reason: "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"

Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, provided the response to the petition, the basis of which was to "spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration and more," not to mention domination of the universe.

You can read Shawcross's full response, which focuses on what exactly we do have already, particularly related to the International Space Station. But what I liked best were his closing remarks, encouraging people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields—domains that are critical to the country’s future.

My nephew will graduate from Southern Oregon University later this year, but alas, has no plans to pursue a STEM-related career. He's a journalism major (yes, I'm proud), with his sights set on a science fiction magazine in the UK. As Shawcross says, though, "If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us!"

Aaron Hand is the managing editor for Control Design and for Industrial Networking. Email him at ahand@putman.net or check out his Google+ profile.