Encouraging the Future Generation with STEM
By Sally Riker, F.SAME
Inspired by a kindergarten STEM to STEAM outreach project I led, I want to share how you too can duplicate this idea. With less than $10 dollars + time, I shared my love for STEM in hopes of creating an impact and leaving an impression with the children.
Have you ever noticed how much STEM plays a part in our daily lives? STEM is everywhere: in computer programs we use for school or work, mobile applications we use for entertainment, the weather patterns which dictate where we go and what we wear, to which route to take during heavy Atlanta traffic. STEM is something that factors into our daily lives, and young children are natural STEM aficionados and are the earliest adopters. They are born into a society where iPads, computers, phones, and other technology are always at arm’s reach. This generation is constantly yearning for knowledge and wanting to know how and why things work, and answers are easily accessible.
Support and guidance are essential to maintaining that natural desire, and that eagerness to explore and create. Before a child is old enough to attend school, they start pondering how and why things work. As parents and role models it is necessary to listen to and foster those ideas. Allowing the child to experience STEM by experimenting, creating, and exploring is also very important. STEM is their future: in a society that is driven by innovation and technology, STEM gives kids the opportunity to tackle complex issues like predicting traffic or finding the cure for cancer. STEM careers can truly help build and transform our communities and modern day world. Moreover, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the 10 fastest growing occupations from 2008 to 2018 with high median wages are all STEM related. Professions range from Civil Engineering and Biochemistry to Wind Turbine Technicians and Genetic Counselors.
The problem is there are not enough children and young adults pursuing STEM classes, majors, and professions. ‘The disproportionate influence of STEM raises a persistent concern that the U.S. is not producing enough STEM workers to compete successfully in the global economy. We find that this concern is warranted. 1’ Also, ‘38 percent of students who start with a STEM major do not graduate with one.1’ Being curious and interested is a start, but STEM needs coaches, managers, and cheerleaders to push it to the finish line.
On a basic level, students need to understand the extent that STEM plays a role in their life. They need to know that STEM professions are important and in high demand. We need to change stigmas and raise awareness for STEM professions, and show not only how necessary they are, but how cool they can be.
How do you do this? It’s simple. Take some time to visit and talk to your local elementary school and show them that science, technology, engineering, and math are cool. Plant the “seed of curiosity” and help it grow. It doesn’t take that much time to make an eye opening impact. Can you imagine if each employee of every engineering firm across America took on this challenge? Think of the impact.
Sally Riker is partner at Lowe Engineers. Lowe Engineers is a privately owned Engineering firm based in Atlanta, GA. Lowe Engineers provides civil engineering, municipal engineering, surveying, mapping, and planning services for a variety of clients. Sally’s responsibilities include Business Development, Marketing and Sales, as well as holding the title of Chief Recruiting Officer. Sally participates in a plethora of non-profit, civic, and professional organizations. Sally is a Fellow in the Society of American Engineers (SAME) and currently serves on the National Board as well as the Savannah Post Board. Sally also serves on the Council for Quality Growth Board of Directors, ULI Advisory Board, and Mt. Paran Northside Citizen Association Board. In the past few years, Sally has been recognized for her professional excellence with honors including: The Emerging Leaders Alliance, and named Georgia Trends 40 under 40: Georgia’s Best & Brightest in 2009. Sally is a graduate of the University of Georgia.
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) Activity: Build a Structure
What you will need:
- Multi-Colored Construction Paper
- Glue Sticks
- 1 pair of Scissors
- Present for children (We give pencils and tattoos)
Cut the paper into long strips.
- Give each child a few strips of paper (5 to 10) and a glue stick.
- Explain what a “Struc ture” is by using examples and showing pictures. Explain that structures can’t stand on their own, and that they need support. Show 2 ways of folding the paper (Circle and arch).
- After, give the students an opportunity to build their own structures. I.e. Bridges, Tunnels, Playgrounds, etc.
- Leave all kids with something lasting to the concepts.