A celebration of STEM education
Hundreds of students, education supporters and business leaders rallied at the Missouri Capitol Rotunda on March 1 to celebrate the state’s growing math and science efforts. The annual STEM Day at the Capitol, hosted by the Missouri Chamber Foundation’s Mathematics and Science Coalition and Verizon, showcased the opportunities STEM education provides.
Throughout the day, student groups and coalition members provided a variety of demonstrations and activities. Remote-controlled robots roamed the floor, weaving through the crowds. Pfizer had hands-on chemical experiments for students to try. And The Boeing Company’s F/A-18 flight simulator was a big hit.
Priscilla Christopher, the Executive Chief of Staff to Business & Supply Chain Systems for Boeing in St. Louis, hopes that the event will spark interest in STEM careers.
“Life is STEM. And that is the application of where we need to be looking as we head into the next hundred years for Boeing,” Christopher said.
STEM Day participant Alex Iordanou, a high school junior with the Camdenton Laser 3284 FIRST Robotics team, was in middle school when she started experimenting with robotics.
“That’s why I love it, because it brings STEM out of the classroom and is real life application—what you’re learning in school matters,” said Iordanou. “It’s the hardest fun you’re ever going to have.”
Nearby, students from the Project Lead The Way program at Glendale High School in Springfield were showing off some of their engineering achievements, including a house model and a 3D-printed phone speaker.
Conner Skinner said Project Lead The Way centers around hands-on projects and career exploration.
“We learn and talk to many different engineers in the areas we want to see professions in and many of the ones that we may think of, and that helps us make that decision before we actually get there,” said Skinner, a junior at Glendale.
Skinner says he wants to be a mechanical engineer in the automobile or commercial flight industry. But whatever what he ends up doing, he said, his motto is “to make tomorrow a better place than we left it today.”
At another table, Xanden, a fifth grader with the Warrensburg Adventure Club Steam Team, was on a laptop demonstrating a “community survival game.”
Xanden said testing the game as a team helped them learn to collaborate.
“One day in life you might have to work with others in science and technology. That’s a big thing,” said Xanden. “And this is all about communities and teamwork and finding what everybody’s good at.”
Sheila Boyington emphasized the need to not only cultivate interest in STEM early on, but focus on the available career paths as well.
“Forty-two percent of Americans today say they would have considered STEM if they had better understood what the careers were. And while we’re doing a fabulous job across education of getting kids interested in STEM through project-based learning and math and science, we’re still a lot of times not taking kids all the way to the finish line to show them what are the careers that they might actually do,” said Boyington, president and CEO of Learning Blade. “So that’s what Learning Blade is really about—helping kids see what they can be.”
Boyington thanked the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry for being a strong STEM supporter and working to address the STEM labor shortage.
“Nationally, we know this is a crisis. We’ve got to be doing more. And having the Chamber take the lead for that is so important,” said Boyington.
The Missouri Mathematics and Science Coalition and the Missouri Chamber engage businesses and education leaders statewide to help ensure Missouri’s students are prepared to enter tomorrow’s workforce.
For more information on the Missouri Chamber’s education programs, contact Brian Crouse, vice president of education, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-634-3511.