Emerald Coast Post Encourages STEM Interest

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One night at my son’s soccer practice, I heard some little girls (my daughter being one of them), look up at the sky and point out a large “star.”  Knowing that it was the planet Venus, I pointed out they were actually looking at a planet rising.  The look in their little eyes told me this was something they had not even thought of!

EmeraldCoast-1-As professionals in the field, we are often asked how we are going to motivate future generations to go into STEM careers.  How do we inspire their imaginations and give them the exposure at a young age to consider pursuing it later in college?  We are asked this question on surveys and in conversations with primary and secondary teachers.

To answer, I have found the best way to encourage a young mind to believe they can pursue a career in STEM is to, well…encourage them.  At the youngest level, if possible.

 

ENGAGING IN STEM PROGRAMS

For the SAME Emerald Coast Post, this has been our marching orders.  We have hosted a yearly Industry Day and Golf Tournament, but knew we needed additional avenues to raise funds for STEM activities to support local elementary, middle, and high school students in addition to college scholarships  We also needed a plan for how we wanted to distribute funds, which in turn will help up with sponsorships from local businesses.  If they can see what our goals are (and how much we need to achieve them), then maybe it wouldn’t all fall on our shoulders.

Lt. Col. Jason “JJ” Loschinskey, USAF, stepped up to the plate and wrote a Strategic Education Engagement Plan that we will be using to not only raise funds, but to use as a metric to encourage volunteering efforts.  Thankfully for us, we have an active AIAA professional chapter, and they have created the Florida Panhandle STEM Education Resource website, a clearinghouse for educators requesting support and volunteers looking to support them. People are encouraged to visit the site and register as a volunteer. I have had many educators email me, feeling lost and unsure of how to get help from local professionals. Then they have their needs filled in one afternoon after registering on the site.  Our colleagues at the AIAA professional chapter have been a great partner in our efforts at the Emerald Coast Post.

BlueRidge-3-We are developing our organization to raise funds and support the next generation of engineers and architects. In 2013, we dug deep and came up with a master plan to use funds secured from the 2011 SC/SA JETS to successfully accomplish the following:

Provided $73,500 in scholarships to 32 college students. Funds obtained from the SC/SA JETS and our annual golf tournament were used to award present and upcoming college students that are pursuing degrees in STEM-related fields.

Donation of $7,000 to the Okaloosa STEMM Center. The Okaloosa STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medical) Center is a unique regional middle school that accepts students with high math and reading scores.  The curriculum for middle school students includes World Cultures Advanced, Language Arts Advanced, Advanced Honors Math, Earth/Space Science Honors, Computers, Civics Advanced & Career Planning, Life Science Advanced, Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Strategies, U.S. History Advanced, Language Arts, and Physical Science Honors, as well as interactive field trips, and year-long research electives. For more on the Okaloosa STEMM Center, click here.

Five $500 donations to local elementary schools. $2,500 in donations made to local elementary schools to support STEM-related programs and supplies.

$1,000 donation for Bricks 4 Kidz Summer Program. We provided funds so that our local, young, school age students (K-5) could participate in a Mobile Unit visits and obtain camp sponsorships for the Bricks 4 Kidz Summer Program.  Bricks 4 Kidz is a program for elementary and pre-school children to participate in hands-on technical projects using kits along with support from independent teachers specializing in science-based learning. Legos are used to teach technological aspects along with fine motor skills, spatial/relational thinking, robotics, and organizational skills.  44 boys and girls were exposed to these concepts using our donated funds.


$2,000 to MATHCOUNTS.
Members participated in the regional MATHCOUNTS event in February 2014, and the Emerald Coast Post donated $2,000 to help fund the trip for the regional winners to attend Florida’s state completion in March.  MATHCOUNTS’ mission is to engage middle school students and develop a love for mathematics to foster growth into future successful mathematics careers.

$1,000 to SAME Engineering & Construction Camps. The Emerald Coast Post continues to support the SAME annual engineering and construction camps that promote and encourage high school students to pursue engineering.

$1,500 to support Student Chapter at Northwest Florida State College. The Emerald Coast Post stood up a Student Chapter last year at Northwest Florida State College. To promote recruitment and retention of student members (most of whom are older, and some military veterans), the Post supports the chapter meetings and aids in the planning and attendance of social functions.

 

MAKING AN IMPACT

The above contributions of the SAME Emerald Coast Post and the volunteer opportunities associated with them are great ways to get involved in the local community and make a real, personal impact on a child (or young adult) that may not have otherwise have been exposed to the possibilities out there in STEM careers.

A few small things done as an organization, or as an individual, can make a big impact in the future success of STEM success in this country. Like a star rising in the sky that is actually a planet, opportunities in STEM are more than meets the eye.

(Contributed by Alison MacAloon Smith, P.E., Emerald Coast Post)