View a video and photos from STEM Exploration Night here: www.fwps.org/Page/4692
Over 3,000 Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) students, families and community members attended the first annual STEM Exploration Night on Feb. 23, 2017 at the brand new Federal Way High School, a site beaming with brand new modernized learning environments thanks to local voter support. This event invited all attendees to experience career pathways in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Washington state ranks #1 nationally in the concentration of STEM related jobs, yet the state ranks 47th in degrees to pursue these fields. In the last ten years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than non-STEM jobs, and the average salary for STEM jobs at $85,570, is nearly double the average salary, $47,230, for all occupations according the U.S. Department of Labor.
“We want our students to start preparing now to access these high-demand, high-wage college and career pathways,” said Dr. Tammy Campbell, FWPS superintendent. “The goal of STEM Exploration Night is for scholars to walk away with knowledge and direction in whatever career path they may choose, and steps on how to get there. Events like these can change the trajectory for our scholars, and spark an interest in a subject area they had not previously known existed.”
The event focused on highlighting five high-demand STEM career pathways in the greater Puget Sound region:
- Computer science;
- Environmental science;
- Health science; and
- Manufacturing and construction.
A Todd Beamer High School sophomore who attended the event said, “After high school, I want to be a physical therapist, so I spoke to a couple people that work in the medical field. They taught me a lot of things, and let me know physical therapists are in demand.”
More than 80 booths were present, including local colleges and businesses, to provide information about STEM related opportunities. Attendees included Boeing, McKinstry, Google, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, Hexcel, University of Washington Tacoma and Highline College.
Director of Engineering, Kristina Sing, represented McKinstry at the event. Sing said, “It was fun just engaging the kids to find out what really jazzed them. One activity students enjoyed was looking into a ball valve, and watching the ball rotate while I turned the handle.”
One of the most popular attractions was scholars being able to interact with FIRST Robotics programs from Federal Way High School and nationally ranked Thomas Jefferson High School. Attendees took turns operating a robot that TAF Academy middle school FIRST Tech Challenge students built. In addition, FWPS middle school students offered attendees opportunities to program sumo bots to push an opponent out of the ring, and program robots to do “the wave.”
A parent shared her kindergartener’s experience at the event. She said, “My son loved making a robot. Thank you to the 6th grade robotics club volunteers who showed him how to make it!”
FWPS lighthouse schools — Nautilus K–8 and Woodmont K–8 — displayed the project based STEM learning opportunities available at their school sites. Woodmont’s engineering challenge tasked students with building a bridge out of drinking straws to span a certain distance and bear a specific amount of weight. Prior to the event, Nautilus scholars used the “rube goldberg” machine model which asks participants to over-engineer a device to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion, generally including a chain reaction. Teams of Nautilus students each built a segment of one machine, and then came together as a class to figure out how to combine each segment so that a marble could travel through the entire machine. This machine was on display at STEM Exploration Night.
Teachers and students from Career and Technical Education (CTE) computer science courses and clubs hosted their own version of a computer coding “hack-a-thon.” Well known in the professional community, a hack-a-thon is when a group of computer science experts get together to discuss a specific problem, and work to design a tool or solution to address the problem. At STEM Exploration Night, the goal was to introduce scholars of all ages to coding fundamentals.
We look forward to continued partnerships with apprenticeship programs, higher education, businesses and others at this annual event to build our scholars’ awareness of post-high school STEM pursuits.