Penn State Campus Collaborates with High Schools on STEM Exposure

A Pennsylvania university is reaching out to local high schoolers to participate in a workshop that will introduce them to STEM-related careers and education. In mid-March Penn State New Kensington will be hosting the "STEM Exploration Workshop," inviting students from three counties in the region to meet with local employers and participate in team activities on a Saturday.

According to organizer Debra Novak, a STEM/youth coordinator at the university, the goal is to provide the students with an opportunity to learn more about the application of science, technology, engineering and math in the real world. This time around the emphasis will be on safety in science. People from local agencies and companies doing emergency response cleanup, waste treatment, wetlands restoration and sustainable resource work will be on hand to answer questions. The teens will also compete in real-world projects and tour a local waste management company.

While the event is free for participants, expenses are being covered by a multi-county business-education partnership, a workforce investment board and the university itself.

This is just one in a stream of STEM events run by Penn State New Kensington. In 2010 the university hosted a "Women in STEM" symposium that brought more than 300 female students to the campus to learn about career and internship options.

The university also hosts "Kids in College," a series of summer camps for students in grades 1-12 with STEM-related classes in design and rocketry and related topics.

A "STEM Academy" targets high schoolers to take dual-enrollment courses in STEM majors.

"The academy provides students with the advantages of earning college credits while in high school and exploring a career path that is STEM-related," said Novak in a press release. "It also provides an opportunity for high school teachers to work with campus faculty to develop the talents of college-bound and workforce-bound students whose career interests will require advanced knowledge of STEM areas."

Novak also manages "Courses on Math, Engineering, Technology, Science" (COMETS), a program for girls in grades 7 and 8 who are interested in STEM fields. Volunteer mentors from the Penn State community share their experiences in STEM jobs and work with the girls over eight months in brunch meetings, a camp, demonstrations and projects.

The region is home to many manufacturing and other companies that anticipate big growth in their need for STEM-educated workers. "Our programs are directed at introducing and supporting the necessary pathways for students in our area districts for success in STEM jobs," explained Novak.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.