Teens are forming new career goals with hands on STEM programs in high schools. The growing emphasis on STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math has given teens like Jessica Meloy and Patrick VanDusen opportunities to consider a future in engineering and other STEM related fields.
Neither had considered engineering as a career path until being shown the hands on activities such as the robotics club. Both will be seniors at Memorial High School’s Academy of Engineering this fall.
“I just got into (the engineering academy) because of my older brother, and it stuck,” said 17-year-old VanDusen. “I really wanted to be a fireman or a policeman.”
He and Meloy were ambassadors for the FIRST Robotics program Monday at the 47th annual Oklahoma Career and Technology Education summer conference at the Cox Business Center downtown.
The conference is the major professional development event for Oklahoma CareerTech teachers, counselors, administrators and staff members. About 3,700 were in attendance Monday, spokeswoman Paula Bowles said.
The pair relayed their experiences to CareerTech educators who stopped by the FIRST Robotics booth in the conference exhibit hall. The exhibits provide fresh ideas to the educators, who can take them back and use them in class.
“When I first walked in (to robotics), I thought, ‘I can’t do that,’ ” said 17-year-old Meloy. “But then I learned that it’s like a math problem: You take it step by step.”
CareerTech has led the way in bringing STEM learning to Oklahoma’s high school students and exposing them to an array of career options to meet the needs of the state’s workforce.
“Reports show if you want to get better academic results and college completion rates and a more prepared workforce, the solution must include CareerTech,” said Robert Sommers, outgoing state CareerTech director and Oklahoma secretary for education and workforce development, at the conference.