Middle school and high school teachers in Ocean County, Calif., got to witness first hand some of the career opportunities that are open to their students.
About 30 teachers attended UBM Canon’s Advanced Manufacturing Trade Show at the Anaheim Convention Center last month. This STEM Education Day is a result of UBM Canon’s partnership with Science@OC in order to promote education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Phil Hunter, an 8th Grade Science and Robotics teacher at Johnson Middle School, said that he attended STEM education day because his students will often ask, why are we doing this? “I have a sense of what goes on in the real world, but going to the show and talking to the guys who are there building the systems, and asking what kind of sciences are in your career path; it makes it real for the kids,” Hunter said.
Many of the teachers commented on how willing the manufacturers were to spend time with them and answer all their questions. Teachers had the chance to ask exhibiting companies what they are looking for in the way of knowledge, experience and skills when they hire people. They also asked individuals why and how they got into the manufacturing industry.
Hunter also said he realized how many countries were represented at the show and discovered U.S.-based companies had manufacturing facilities all over the world, which gave him insight into languages and cultural skills his students should be learning if they are interested in jobs in manufacturing.
Lisa Marquez, a 7th and 8th grade engineering, science and math elective teacher at South Junior High School in Anaheim said, “(The manufacturers) were really open and explained their product, what it does. I did interviews asking what kind of background did you have, did you have a science background and what did you do to get involved in this career?”
Marquez spent time at the show making contacts with companies in hopes that she could get guest speakers to come to her classes. She was even able to score some old Arduino boards one company was no longer using and a business card to get more parts she could use in her classes.
Both Marquez and Hunter took a lot of pictures and video while they were on the trade show floor to share with their students.
“It’s one thing when you show videos from YouTube, but when you can say I actually saw this working, it makes it more real to the students. I can talk to my students about what sensors (the manufacturer) used to make this happen.” Hunter said.
Marquez created a presentation for her kids from the photos and videos she shot at the show. “I have two 3D printers in my classroom. When my students saw the types of things that were being made by 3D printers at the show, it got them going.”
It’s exactly this kind of reception that Roger Burg, vice president of Design & Manufacturing portfolio director for UBM Canon was expecting the teachers would get.
Burg said that when the manufacturers heard what UBM Canon and Science@OC were doing with STEM day, they all wanted to get involved and extend themselves. The program is a part of a long-term approach to address a chronic challenge faced by Orange County manufacturers: finding qualified workers.
“Any engineer you ever talk to will take the time to enlighten anyone, they understand the need for it,” Burg said. “We want to prepare our kids for tomorrow’s jobs while building a stronger workforce in our communities. What better thing could we be doing?”
The program also opened up opportunities for Science@OC. The STEM education day appears not to have just made an impression on the teachers attending, but on the manufacturers and engineers as well.
Sue Neuen, executive director of Science@OC, said they followed up with the individuals who showed a lot of interest at last year’s STEM Education Day.
One of those individuals has become a board member of Science@OC. Others are taking part in a new project based learning program. They are bringing in STEM professionals in to sit down with teachers and help them design their projects.
Some STEM professionals are going to the middle schools for career fairs, called STEMplorations. It’s like speed dating where students and their parents move from table to table interacting with STEM professionals learning about various careers.
What is a typical day like? What areas of STEM are in your business? Neuen says that many students want to know if all the teamwork their teachers are encouraging is all that important. It turns out that it is very important according to the STEM professionals.
Neuen said the feedback she is getting from the teachers is that they have a new focus on what they need to emphasize in their teaching. Teachers now understand they need to offer more opportunities to work on projects. That is where their students will learn problem solving and designing. The project experience can be in their portfolios and follow them to their first job. The kind of experience that manufacturers are looking for.
Some teachers are even changing their classroom atmosphere to mimic the workplace. They are doing away with rows of desks and creating team workspace. Kids are encouraged to play off their strengths and seek out strengths they don’t have in other students. They are learning the real world lesson of working in a team.
Neuen is hoping to build on these two successful years and that next year there is the opportunity for some students to attend with their teachers.
The partnership with Science@OC is funded by the UBM Foundation and was pitched as a three-year project. Next year will be the third year, and Burg would not only like to see it continue, but also he said he’d like to see it incorporated into all of their events.
Traci Browne is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing, engineering and science. You can find out more about her at www.TraciBrowne.com.