President Barack Obama has signed into law the new STEM Education Act of 2015.

This new law is designed to broaden the definition of STEM, allowing new programs in computer science now to be funded by the federal government. The new law does not add additional funding, but it does expand the kinds of STEM programs that can be run and funded by federal government agencies to include computer science. Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships, which support those pursuing their master’s degree in computer science, also are now available under this law for those wishing to use their degree to teach.

Additionally, the STEM Education Act of 2015 requires the National Science Foundation to continue funding informal, out-of-school programs in STEM, in facilities like nature centers and museums.

Here is a summary of the major provisions in the STEM Education Act of 2015:

  • Expands existing federal grants and programs related to STEM education to include computer science education.
  • Supports competitive merit-reviewed grants for informal STEM education, which is learning outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers and afterschool programs.
  • Amends the National Science Foundation Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program to allow teachers in pursuit of a master’s degree to apply for the grant and explicitly include computer science teachers. The STEM Education Act would allow more teachers the opportunity to compete for the grant, better reflecting the current reality facing our schools, especially in high-need areas.
  • No new or additional spending is authorized in this bill.

The bipartisan bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by Republican Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.). It cleared the Senate on Oct. 8. Representatives Smith and Esty are both members of the Science, Space and Technology committee.