STEM Fest aims to take learning to a higher level
Ever wanted to know how to make a rocket? Ever wondered what makes an engine go?
On June 9 at William Pitcher Junior High School in Covington, and again June 23 at Slidell Junior High School, kids of all ages will be able to learn firsthand about those things and more at Northshore STEM Fest.
Geared for students from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade, as well as their accompanying family or guardians, STEM Fest is a fun and family-friendly way to learn about science, technology, engineering and math with hands-on projects, information on alternative energy sources, food science, math games and more.
Both STEM Fest events will be held from 9 a.m. until noon.
Organizers from the United Way of Southeast Louisiana want the dual events to bring together as many kids as possible in order to inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers, inventors and innovators.
“Our goal is we want all kids to come, especially those kids that may not have regular access to STEM programs,” said Sonja Newman, United Way SELA manager of resource development. “We want them to go and be inspired and think, ‘Hey, maybe I can be a scientist.’”
Originally created as STEM Nola by former Tulane University engineering professor Calvin Mackie, the organization recently branched out to form STEM Northshore. Mackie, a New Orleans native and graduate of Morehouse College, brought together his experience and knowledge in science and technology to create both outreach programs.
STEM Nola and STEM Northshore share the goal to “inspire and engage K-12 students, businesses and community members” about career opportunities in STEM.
According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, STEM is the fastest-growing career industry, with jobs projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022, an increase of about 1 million over 2012. The overwhelming number of people in those jobs are expected to earn wages higher than the national average.
While the number of jobs in STEM fields is growing, representation of black and Hispanic workers is low, according to a Pew Research poll taken in January. That survey reported that 69 percent of STEM jobs are held by white workers, 13 percent by Asians, 9 percent by blacks and 7 percent by Hispanics.
In order to fill the room with as many future scientists and engineers from all backgrounds as possible, United Way worked with a team of sponsors to make the events free for everyone, Newman said.
“We decided to have the fest at two locations so that it could be accessible to all kids,” she said. “Education is a big part of the United Way’s mission to eliminate poverty in Louisiana. Sometimes cost can be prohibitive, so the event is free and is being provided by United Way with the help of sponsors. We wanted to remove as many barriers as possible so that everyone can come.”
Newman said the fest requires all kids to come with a caretaker, with the notion that the event will provide a unique opportunity for learning on all levels.
“It’s really more for the little kids, but we do require that (everyone) come with a parent, grandparent or caretaker. Adults must accompany children. We want to get the caretakers excited, too. There’s a great dual learning opportunity with this event. Basically, we want as many people to come as possible. We want to be bursting at the seams.”
Funding for the three STEM events is provided by United Way of Southeast Louisiana, a grant from Shell, sponsorships from Keystone Engineering, Rain CII Carbon LLC and Sharon Green State Farm Insurance.
“We are definitely still looking for sponsors and donations to help pay for the event,” Newman said.
Registration for both STEM Fests is recommended, but not required, at www.northshorestem.com
To sponsor an event, or for more information, email Newman at email@example.com.
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