BCPAL STEM Expo opens a world of possibilities

Published 8:21 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

What kind of doors can STEM education open?

If the Beaufort County Police Activities League STEM Exposition on Friday is any indication, the answer may be more than you think.

Placing more than 500 high school students from Beaufort, Martin, Washington and Pitt counties face-to-face with professionals from 50 organizations and agencies in a variety of disciplines, the expo sought to not only to expose students to new career opportunities, but also to stress the importance of STEM education in entering these fields.

“We’re touching every single discipline,” BCPAL President Al Powell said. “The whole idea is to get kids excited about these careers.”

While Powell and the staff at BCPAL coordinated the event, funding was provided through Americorps-STEM East, an organization that seeks to foster innovative STEM education in K-12 classrooms. In doing so, one major goal for STEM East is to help build the next generation of eastern North Carolina’s workforce.

POLICE TECHNOLOGY: Washington Police Officer Anthony McDuffie teaches students about technologies used by police officers in the line of duty. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

“We’re a nonprofit, mainly focusing on K-12 to create STEM pipeline,” Americorps Vista volunteer David Rashidi said. “Some of our regional partners are trying to fill positions that require certain skills and thinking processes. If these local companies are looking to hire locally, what better way to do that than training at a young age? It all starts with getting them interested in STEM.”

While kindergarteners may be far from entering the workforce, young people in local high schools will be at that age in the next few years. More than anything, the expo helped solidify connections between the STEM lessons they are learning in school and the real-world practical applications those lessons can have.

“We focus on getting the kids exposed to science and technology, staying healthy and having a good moral compass,” Powell said. “That’s our holistic approach, and it’s different from most PAL programs.”

Disciplines involved in the expo included emergency services, aviation, aerospace, engineering, academia, healthcare, military, boat construction, auto repair, science museums and more.

ENGINEERING: ECU Assistant Engineering Professor Zhen Zhu and student Jamie Morris explain the principals of unmanned aerial vehicles. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

While most of the agencies participating at the event came from eastern North Carolina, two very special guests traveled all the way from Hampton, Virginia, for the Expo. Representing NASA, Mechanical Engineering Technician Sam James and Education Specialist Rosemary Smith may have planted a seed that could lead some student from eastern North Carolina to outer space.

“It’s great to see their desire,” James said. “You can see it in their eyes, and when I share it with them, they say they see my passion for what I do.”

For more information on the Beaufort County Police Activities League, visit www.beaufortpal.org.