College of Science and Engineering


University event shows potential in science, math fields

Thursday, January 31, 2013

St. Cloud State hosted the fifth annual STEM Summit on Thursday. It brought together 1,500 Central Minnesota teens to explore exhibits like the traveling planetarium called ExploraDome, an airplane flight simulator and high-tech landscape surveying equipment. STEM is a term used in educational circles to refer to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

From flying through space to finding bed bugs to turning light fixtures into Wi-Fi providers, St. Cloud State University’s STEM Summit brought together the variety of science, technology, engineering and math topics students wanted to see — and that’s exactly how Carolyn Ruth Williams wanted it.

“There are over 50 exhibits from all over,” said Williams, creator of the summit and associate dean for multicultural affairs and STEM initiatives at St. Cloud State. “I started this program five years ago because I saw a need for it, and no one else was doing it.”

The summit is one of two that occur annually in the state, said Doug Paulson, STEM specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education.

“We had a large push a few years ago to have several of these summits statewide, but there are only two, this one and one in Rochester, that are still happening,” Paulson said. “This is great because it’s regional too. Students from all over Central Minnesota are here. It’s fun to see how all of the kids are reacting to the different exhibits and are seeing how widely STEM is spread.”

Most, if not all, of the exhibits allowed the students a chance to try an experiment or task related to that field. Students were dragging their hands through polymer orbs or water-soaked spheres, collapsing balloons with liquid nitrogen and shooting metal rings in the air using electricity.

“This is a very hands-on experience, and that’s what engages the students,” Paulson said. “Years ago, there were only 37 STEM schools in the state, and now we’re at 120ish. The programs are really growing.”

One of the most recent, Paulson pointed out, is Talahi Community School, which is in the early stages of its STEM conversion.

“It seems like a lot of the students are really interested in the exhibits in front of them, and that’s the hope — that they keep these fields in mind,” Paulson said.

The summit was a crowded and energetic area with the hundreds are sixth-12th graders in attendance.

“I’ve always been interested in knowing how things work,” said 12-year-old Hannah Loukusa, who was watching a Lego robot sort color-coded spheres into bins. “I’ve been to these kinds of events before. I just want to find more (jobs) I can do.”

That is the point of the summit, said Williams.

“We have to reach out to the students while they’re young,” she said. “Start them young. I want all students to be prepared in the sciences or else our state isn’t going anywhere. This is where the jobs of the future are.”

By: Danielle Cintron, St. Cloud Times
Jan. 31, 2013

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