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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

STEM Career Day gives students valuable insight, skills

Written by Wilford Shamlin

Schools and businesses are working together to expose students to in-demand careers in science, technology, engineering and science, or STEM.

That was obvious during a career day recently hosted by Girard College and that engaged students with such attractions as a laser show, three-dimensional printing and the designing a prosthetic dolphin fin. Student participants also walked away from the STEM Career Accelerator Day with experience at applying ‘soft skills,’ which according to organizers, can make them more competitive as job candidates.

More then 200 students attended the Day, with 50 parents assisting 15 employees from Deloitte, a global business analytics firm with offices in Philadelphia. In neighboring New Jersey, Campbell’s Soup, headquartered in Camden, was a lead sponsor for STEM Career Accelerator Day, which was also organized in schools in more than 18 states.

The STEM Career Day Accelerator initiative is aimed at high school and middle school students, particularly females and minorities who are under-represented in STEM fields. Girls made up more than half of the participants at last week’s event with minority participation exceeding 75 percent of those in attendance, event organizers said.

For Sheila Boyington, creator of Learning Blade software, the event was a chance to inspire a younger generation.
“For me, this is, personally, a passion,” she said. “Having a STEM background gives you the ability to follow any career path you want.” She said she created the STEM-related software because she felt it would appeal to students and extend her reach across the country.

A 12-week program geared for Girard College’s extended-day students launched on the same day, Oct. 23. Part of the interactive, science-based academic exercises called for dividing students into teams and working as engineers and scientists who handled different phases of the group project.

“An integrated task force focuses not only on STEM disciplines and activity that amplifies the STEM skill sets, it introduces critical thinking, soft-skill collaboration such as team work, innovation and leadership,” said Tonie Leatherberry, of Deloitte Consulting LLP. “That’s what we’re really trying to do at these sites. The number one reason kids don’t go into STEM careers is they don’t know about them. We’re trying to expose as many kids to as many career options as we can.”

The structured day of hands-on activities included work on computer software, solving business problems with such technology as 3-D printers used in manufacturing, and learning about light and laser in the application of other technology. Students worked to solve issues related to water irrigation and involving turbine wind. They also designed a prosthetic device for a dolphin with a damaged fin.

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