Reaching out to young STEM students
By Steven Powell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1923
USC played host to more than 1,000 high school, middle school and home school students over fall break (Oct. 18 and 19) with the second annual installment of the Edison Lecture Series in the College of Engineering and Computing.
The goal was to create more enthusiasm for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas by showing students the impact of compelling technology applications in everyday life and potential careers.
“The United States is falling behind many countries such as China, Australia and Denmark in the number of engineers and computer scientists who are graduating from college and entering the workforce,” said Kathryn McPhail, director of communications and marketing for the College of Engineering and Computing. “We hope the Edison Lecture Series will show young students the many career possibilities that are out there for engineers and computer scientists.”
Brief presentations by professors Jason O’Kane, Wenyuan Xu and Travis Knight in Amoco Hall covered robotics, wireless surveillance and how television has evolved throughout the years. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded the hour-long program with a demonstration of high-tech surveillance gear. The students were then able to interact in smaller groups with demonstrations set up throughout the first floor of the Swearingen Engineering Center and had the opportunity to tour the campus as well.
Tinoia Gaddist, a math teacher from Alcorn Middle School who brought 82 eighth graders to the Edison Lecture, said the students were “really excited to see the robots – they were fascinated to see them in action.
“Hopefully we can piggy-back off of this as we enter the classroom and create more conversation. It gives us something to talk about.”
Dea Jones, who teaches advanced and honors math students at Summit Parkway Middle School, welcomed the message of the event. “These are the brightest kids, with the highest test scores in our school,” she said. “We want to show them that they they’ve got a future in front of them, that there are exciting, interesting jobs available if you’re interested in math.”
Jennifer Viglino, a physical sciences teacher who came with 65 students from Hammond Middle School, said the students enjoyed it. “They made a real connection. We had talked about cathode tubes with the development of atomic theory, so with the discussion of television development, they really got it.”
“And if they had a favorite, it was probably the FBI,” said Katherine Muller, a math teacher also with the Hammond Middle School group. “They thought that part of the program was really cool.”
Viglino hopes the FBI presentation will soon be able to create more connections. “We have a forensics component we’re going to be doing soon – some applied chemistry with fingerprint oils, using skid marks to estimate the speed of a car.”
Targeting students early is critical for STEM education, said Rose Dangerfield of Time Warner Cable, which helped sponsor the event. “There is a real need in the STEM areas for the education of students – and by students, I mean middle and high school students as opposed to college. That’s a big part of why we’ve connected with the Edison Lecture Series, because we want kids to know: this is fun, this is cool stuff.”
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