The 700-plus students at STEM Madness at Jeremiah E. Burke High School on April 26 had plenty of questions for the educators and professionals on hand to conduct experiments involving everything from pig lungs to an Arduino circuit board to a humanoid robot named Pepper.
Those questions were soon followed by another: How do I land a job in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math?
Fortunately for the Boston students, presenters were from colleges and universities or worked for STEM-focused companies. “It was good to see people who look like us and have become successful and are now giving back to the community,” said Burke junior Michael Celestin. “The colleges showed me different avenues for how to achieve my goals for being successful in life.”
The event was co-sponsored by CFES Brilliant Pathways and Burke. It drew younger students from nearby Martin Luther King, Jr. and Frederick Pilot schools to get them thinking about STEM at an early age.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the response of the educators and students at Burke and the range of programs represented that showed students all of the possibilities in STEM,” said CFES President and CEO Rick Dalton.
Representatives from GE Solar, ReVision Urban Farming, Southwest Airlines, CFES and Asymmetrex – a leader in adult tissue stem cell research – conducted experiments at tables set up around the Burke Gymnasium. The CFES table featured two sets of pig lungs – one representing 20 years of smoking damage versus a healthy one – and phlebotomy arm demonstration. Students also learned about related careers in respiratory therapy and pulmonology.
“There was a lot of really helpful information,” said Senior Teyah Davis, who will major in biology at UMass-Lowell in the fall as part of her plan to become a research scientist. “I already took a dual-enrollment class at Roxbury so it was cool to see them here and the lab equipment that I like.”
One table away, students learned about the solar energy industry from GE Solar.
“We wanted to convey that solar is an accessible field and that it’s up to them to choose a clean energy environment,” said David Eisenbud from GE Solar whose daughter Ruby from the Olin College of Engineering showed students how to connect hardware to software using an Arduino circuit board. “We want them to understand where energy comes from and to convey some of the basics of how solar works and encourage them to pursue a field in clean energy.”
Intermingled among the STEM-based organizations were institutions of higher education including MIT, Ben Franklin Institute of Technology, Babson, Boston University, and Roxbury Community College. Some involved students in hands-on experiments while others talked more about the pathways to college and careers.
Joshua Liu, an undergraduate and member of the MIT Society of Physics, explained how basic physical principals like conservation of momentum extend to technologies as complicated and fascinating as a rocket’s flight computer.
“We wanted to give our students a snapshot of the opportunities in STEM by bringing professionals to them,” said Freshman Academy Team Leader Chris Bishop who worked with Principal Lindsa McIntyre to coordinate the event. “Showing students from our K-8 schools what the future job force is going to look like was important. The earlier we get them thinking about their future the better off they’re going to be.”
Burke was well-represented as members of its Science Club and Computer Technology Department gave presentations and provided interactive experiences with the very popular Pepper the Robot.
“I want students to recognize all of the options that are open in IT,” said Malica Armand, a computer science teacher a Burke who used to work in IT as a quality assurance manager. “If we can show them how something goes from idea to end product, they can see where they best fit along that line and figure out where they want to work.”