A growing demand for engineers has California colleges and universities looking for ways to produce enough graduates.
Financial cuts have taken a toll on engineering programs. At a hearing Monday in Sacramento, state lawmakers focused on an overall decline in course offerings that has caused an estimated 140,000 students to be turned away.
"I think it's a tragedy for the state of California because we have fewer educated personnel and we need educated personnel," said Jack Scott, chancellor of the California Community College system.
Amidst the debate over school funding is the added concern over the drop in students pursuing math and science education.
The community college system is considering giving first crack at registration to students who need core math and science classes in order to go into a 4-year school.
"How do we get these kids to transfer to get their bachelor's degrees?" said State Senator Carol Liu (D-Pasadena). "That involves those core courses and so, you know, we need to have that front and center."
Jeffrey Rudolph, president of the California Science Center in L.A.'s Exposition Park, said educators need to re-invigorate young people into discovering the worlds of science and engineering.
"I think it has to be a national priority," Rudolph said. "If our economy is going to succeed and our country is going to succeed, we have to continue to lead the world in innovation."
The science center is currently preparing for the arrival of the retired space shuttle Endeavour.
Officials said the shuttle display will be one more element in the center's mission to help boost young people's interest in science and engineering.