Whether it was being a scientist, a graphic designer or a bio-technician, students got a taste of the smorgasbord of careers available to them later in life.
Southern Tech welcomed students entering the fifth, sixth and seventh grades to its facilities this week for STEAM Camp — a three-day camp geared toward allowing students to explore science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Students experienced hands-on sessions in a variety of Southern Tech programs, including bio-technology, graphic arts, applied math, digital video, CNC machining, computer-aided drafting and mechatronics.
The camp was made possible through a Carl D. Perkins supplemental grant, which Southern Tech applies for annually through the Oklahoma State Department of CareerTech. Dianna Fisher, Southern Tech student service and program director, said each year the institution does a type of camp or educational outreach days, but this year they decided to target a younger audience.
“This year we decided to work with elementary because it’s part of an initiative through the state introducing career counseling and career exposure earlier through the grades,” Fisher said. “We want to give the kids a variety of exposure.”
The students spend half-days exploring each of the eight different fields, which incorporate the pillars of STEAM. In Mechatronics—a favorite among many students — students learned to assemble an electromagnetic fan using a battery. Students had to use problem solving skills to make their fans operational.
“You get to do different stuff and you get to learn while building stuff,” Hannah Hockersmith, a Lone Grove soon-to-be fifth grader, said of the camp. “It teaches you more whenever you get to do hands-on projects.”
The camp presented a different challenge for many Southern Tech instructors, as they usually work with high school juniors, seniors and adults. Fiona McAlister, Southern Tech bio-technology instructor, said when the students in her section put on their lab coats and safety goggles they seemed to become more engaged and transformed from young students to real bio-technicians.
“It’s not acting anymore it’s real,” McAlister said. “They all want to be here.”
In McAlister’s section, students learned about the structure of DNA by building models and then isolated DNA from a strawberry to apply what they learned to reality. Students also isolated DNA from their cheek cells in order to create a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry to take home. The groups were also tasked with helping solve a “crime” during the lab by using electrophoresis—a technique used to analyze DNA.
Career exploration is being embraced and pushed by institutions in education, particularly in younger students. Fisher said by exposing students to careers at an early age they will begin to plan their future at an earlier age.
“That seed needs to be planted early in order for them to start making decisions for later,” Fisher said. “They’re going to remember that. The bottom line is the earlier the exposure the more likely these kids are to make a decision by the time they reach high school.”
The camp welcomed 128 students and had an abundance of other students and families interested in participating in the camp. Fisher said in addition to experiencing the careers the students were given information about higher education, certifications and encouraged to continue their exploration of careers. The camp also potentially opens the doors for students to explore careers in the core STEAM areas that they may have either didn’t know existed or never considered.
“They’re finding out that there is actually science and math in everything,” Arlene Dupree, Southern Tech counselor, said. “They can make the tie in that the things they learn not only prepare them for jobs but also careers.
“This is just the beginning.”