High school sophomores from around Connecticut got a taste of college life when they attended workshops on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at Quinnipiac University on Dec. 18.
The event was led by Quinnipiac faculty and staff from the Center for 21st Century Skills at Education Connection. Students from the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which is comprised of students from Bethel, East Haven, East Hartford, Engineering and Science University Magnet School, James Hillhouse, New Fairfield, Pomperaug, Shepaug, Stonington, Wilbur Cross and Wamogo, were on the Mount Carmel Campus.
The goal was to engage the students in six critical skills – information literacy, collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation, problem solving and responsible citizenship – as they relate to experiences beyond the high school classroom.
Students attended two of six breakout sessions on the following topics: making connections across the science, technology, mathematics and engineering disciplines; biochemistry and technology; engineering design; how to present data; mobile app design and theory; and directing.
Heidi W. Erickson, senior associate director of admissions, welcomed the students to the Quinnipiac campus. Lucie Howell, director of the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Center for Science Teaching & Learning, introduced Karen Bliss, assistant professor of mathematics, who delivered the keynote presentation.
Bliss structured her talk by discussing the series of events in her life that led her to hold several different jobs, including teaching for the Navy, studying boron carbide used in body armor for the Army, and studying red blood cells for her doctorate. In the end, she finally found the work she wanted to do, which was teaching at Quinnipiac.
“I never expected math to take me where it did,” Bliss said. “I got to learn about and study some amazing things just because I had a background in math.”
She advised students to “keep an open-mind and follow your bliss.”
Following the featured presentation, students formed smaller groups and participated in interactive workshops with professors from the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business and Engineering and School of Communications.
In his engineering design workshop, John Reap, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, challenged students to design a protective case to hold an ID card that allows the user to unlock a card-swipe mechanism without removing the card from the case. In addition, he required the students to evaluate the environmental impact of their product’s life cycle.
Aided by Reap, as well as Lynn Byers and Mary Phillips, professors of mechanical engineering, students worked in small groups to sketch their redesigned card holders. At the end of the session, the students voted for the design they thought best solved the problem.
Nico Margues, a sophomore from Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, said that the workshop was a lot of fun. “I am interested in maybe business or doing some engineering design work. It was interesting to try something like that.”
Miranda Garcia, a sophomore from East Haven High School, said the sessions were interesting and helpful for her to begin thinking about her options for a college major.
Justin Kile, associate dean of engineering, underscored the importance of events that promote STEM disciplines. “We need students to be inspired to enter into engineering. Their creativity and energy are what will help us find solutions to the grand challenges of our time posed by the National Academy of Engineers, such as how to provide clean water to everyone on the planet and solutions for sustainable energy. And, of course, the next cool piece of technology, like the iPad.”
These programs, initiatives by Connecticut Career Choices and the Center of 21st Century Skills at Education Connection, engage high school students throughout Connecticut in education that stimulates interest and develops skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Connecticut Career Choices recently received an Investment in Innovation Grant (i3) from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a 9th-12th grade Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.