On Saturday, April 11, Florida A&M University College of Science & Technology held their fifth annual STEM Day workshop for 6th -12th grade students. This activity was designed to increase student’s interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Stem Day is an outreach initiative that invites middle and high school students to FAMU for a daylong series of events. During Stem Day, students learned a majority of things including what classes are required for the majors in STEM and different jobs in the science field. They also practiced strategies with science demos and hands on activities to increase their knowledge and awareness of science.
Six years ago, Vice President for Strategic Planning, Analysis and Institutional Effectiveness, Maurice Edington, and Assistant Vice President of Strategic Planning and Performance Measures, Lewis Johnson, came up with the idea to start a STEM outreach program in the Tallahassee community. Edington and Johnson came up with this idea while working on a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation HBCU-UP, Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program.
“We were literally in a room one night working on a grant proposal thinking about something special we could do at FAMU where we can reach out to the community and get more minority students interested in STEM. Lewis said, ‘Well why don’t we do a STEM day, and it blossomed from there’,” Edington said.
From 2013 to 2017, the outreach program has been funded $1.7 million by the National Science Foundation.
This year’s theme for STEM Day was “math in motion: Easy as Pi”. Math is an essential part of science and plays a huge role in the subject.
“The theme signifies that fact that math is everywhere. It plays a role in every aspect of science, Technology, and engineering. It is the language of the sciences. We want parents and students to know the importance of math which is the foundational concept,” Dr. Sonya A.F. Stephens, interim dean for the College of Science & Technology, said after stressing the importance of math.
During the first year of the STEM program, there were about 100 students that attended. Last year, 311 students attended. Through the years, not only did the student involvement increased, but so did the parent involvement. There were about 84 parents that were involved this year as well as last year.
“Over 800 students pre-registered; 411 showed up Saturday,” said Project Manager for the National Science Foundation HBCU-UP, Alicia Hudson.
Middle and high school students travel and attend STEM from eight different schools coming from Georgia, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tampa.
Dr. Donnell Walton, a consistent supporter for STEM Day from the Corning Technology Center in Silicon Valley, has been a sponsor for four years. Walton believes that it is important to get involved with STEM Day and wants to continue sponsoring the program.
“It’s critically important for us to get involved. This is literally our future,” Dr. Walton stated.
Edington and Johnson plan to continue with the STEM Day initiative, but broaden it to reach more students. The plan is to have students attend STEM Day not only during the week but also on the weekends.
“As we engage with our funding agency, we thought about initiating a Saturday academy where we will meet one Saturday a month throughout the month with speakers and hands on activities,” Edington said.