Nearly 300 high school juniors from across eastern North Carolina recently visited East Carolina University (ECU) to experience and learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities offered at the University. ECU’s College of Engineering and Technology, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Education, including the STEM Center for Education, sponsored the event and provided more than 60 volunteers.
Students rotated through three of 15 hands-on, engaging sessions that were taught by current ECU faculty and students. Departments represented included engineering, physics, technology, mathematics, chemistry, biology, construction management, computer science, geology, geography, atmospheric science, math and science education.
Some of the hands-on learning sessions included:
- Learning about and how to extract DNA
- Determining the types of clays that might be addressed on a construction site
- Exploring how high-resolution 3D models are captured using a simulation of unmanned aircraft systems, and how to analyze and visualize environmental change
- Using cryptography to send secure messages and how it is used in the military for confidential communication and secure online banking, shopping and other applications
This annual event was the second STEM-related event held at ECU in as many weeks. Earlier, more than 140 area Girl Scouts participated in TechnoQuest, which also was designed to introduce STEM to the participants.
Margaret Turner, director of marketing and outreach for ECU’s College of Engineering and Technology, helped organize both events and also helped organize the five former high school STEM Days. Over the years, she’s noticed a very obvious increase in students interested in STEM. Not only does STEM Day introduce these students to exciting and interesting careers, Turner enjoys introducing these students to a university that can help them capture their future, STEM-related degrees.
“I see the excitement in the students faces every time they step on campus and into the sessions,” said Turner. “I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to let them know that if they do pursue a STEM-related career, ECU is a great choice to get them started.
Students Managing Students
Helping Turner organize this year’s event were three college students pursuing their own STEM-related degrees in engineering. Juniors Jessica Campos, Meagan Smith, and Malik Simon provided Turner with project management support. As part of a class assignment in an engineering project management course, they helped Turner with everything from volunteer training, the session schedule, transportation and communication.
“STEM day was an effective way to show how much detail goes into planning an event,” said Smith. “There were months of meetings that involved brainstorming on how to improve the planning process and ways to improve how the day would flow.”
Part of that brainstorming saw the introduction of social media to help with communication between all volunteers. The application that was used is called GroupMe.
“We had volunteers outside Wright circle waiting for high schools to drop off their students, and with this app, our volunteers were able to tell us what schools were here, where to meet them, the final number of students they brought and more,” said Campos. “Throughout the day we were able to communicate any issues that arose using GroupMe, and with everyone’s input, we were able to resolve those issues.”
“Throughout the day we were able to communicate any issues that arose using GroupMe, and with everyone’s input, we were able to resolve those issues.”
“Jessica, Meagan and Malik did a wonderful job in helping make sure we had another successful STEM day,” added Turner. “I think they learned a great deal about the many logistics involved in organizing such a large event. They were also proud to see the event happen and go smoothly and realize they had a large part in planning it.”
This was the first time college students helped with managing the event.
-by Michael Rudd, University Communication