Seventh graders explore STEM careers

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, December 19, 2019

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question most kids are used to hearing, but sometimes struggle to answer.

For the 250 Beaufort County seventh graders who attended the Inner Banks STEM Center’s Youth STEM Career Day on Thursday, exposure to new career options may help them begin to answer that important question.

Coming from schools throughout the county, the youth had the opportunities to learn about and interact with professionals who use science, technology, engineering or math on a daily basis in their respective lines of work.

Among the groups presenting during the event were NASA, DSM pharmaceutical company, Beaufort County Community College’s School of Nursing, Nutrien, Tideland Electric, U.S. Coast Guard, Vidant East Care and the Bunyan Fire Department.

“Most of the organizations have been here for three or four years,” IBX STEM Center President Al Powell said. “This is an organization lineup worthy of a college recruiting day.”

It’s the sixth year IBX Stem has coordinated the event, partnering with Beaufort County Schools and BCCC. By bringing in seventh graders specifically, Powell says the event is able to reach students at just the right age.

LOOKING FOR A HEARTBEAT: Chocowinity Middle School students practice their stethoscope skills in a BCCC nursing classroom. BCCC Director of Nursing and Allied Health Kent Dickerson led the session. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

“The kids don’t have any predetermined biases or apprehensions about science and technology at this age,” Powell said. “They’re still relatively openminded. This is about the time they start getting exposed to their physical sciences, mathematics and chemistry classes to set them up for high school. If we can show them, through interactions with professionals, then it may encourage them to tackle some of those science and technology courses.”

Emily Myers, who stepped into the role of BCS 6-12 curriculum director after teaching math for a number of years, says an event like Youth STEM Career Day helps students understand the usefulness of math and science lessons beyond the classroom.

“Sometimes they see their content as just something they do in school,” Myers said. “But this shows them how it truly applies to a career they can have. Seeing kids who might not be excited in science and math classes to come and see, ‘I can apply that to these jobs,’ I think is really powerful for those students.”