Meet the business, civic, and educational frontrunners who lead the STEM field
By Elizabeth Wilkes
Sandy Spring’s fourth annual Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering (STEM) event encouraging local students to pursue STEM careers kicked off at North Springs on February 6.
Sponsored by the Sandy Springs Education Force and Georgia Tech Research Institute, the “New Thinking, New Energy” event was widely attended by citizens of all ages, and featured numerous businesses and organizations that highlighted past successes and future potential for the field.
The concluding function will occur March 7 at Riverwood International Charter School from 8:00 a.m-12:00 p.m. to complete a month of learning and exposure to STEM among the schools of Sandy Springs.
Hear about the jobs of attendees from North Springs’ kickoff event and their advice to high school students:
- Irene Schweiger – Executive Director of Sandy Springs Education Force (SSEF)
“SSEF believes it is very important to inspire our kids about STEM, so they would be motivated to pursue careers in stem, because there is a major work-skills gap here in Georgia and in the country, which leads to companies bringing in people from other countries who have the skills needed. It’s really important that we engage our kids in STEM, and that’s why SSEF supports STEM in our eleven public schools, because it’s important for everybody’s future.
“We sponsor Lunch with a Leader program at North Springs where business professional come in on a monthly basis to talk with students about how important it is to stay in school and graduate, and they tell their story. We also participate in Senior Push, where we have volunteers help come in and help students with no initial plans to go to college make it happen, by helping pay for SAT testing and application fees. For the past two years, 80% of the students we work with have plans to attend a post-secondary institution by May.
“I encourage high school students to explore and be open-minded – try to take some challenging math and science classes, because they’ll find out they really might enjoy them.”
- Kathy Bogner – Promethean
“The reason we are at this particular event is to show students and teachers how the classroom technology we have is so useful in a STEM classroom.
“I think most people have at one point played the game Angry Birds. If you look at that game through the STEM lens, you see math, physics, engineering – it’s using something students are familiar with and love, to learn some very important scientific principles. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s the way kids learn today, and it’s why we do what we do. Are you going to learn and remember what you learned about velocity better if you learned it playing Angry Birds than if the teacher stood in front of the classroom and drew it on the board?”
- Molly Nelson – Engineer, National Park Service
“I work with the Sustainability Program at Yellowstone National Park, with renewable energy projects, including energy and water reduction. I live in Montana right outside of the border of the park – the park is really big; most of it’s in Wyoming, but there are parts of it in Idaho and Montana. I’m actually from Georgia; I went to Sequoyah High School, and started as a Physics and English major at Berry College, and then I went on and finished an engineering degree at Georgia Tech. Through a program at Tech, I was able to make it to Yellowstone and loved it so much that I applied for a job with the park service and stayed out there.
“When you get to college, take advantage of all the opportunities you have. Try to do some research – I had a professor at Berry who asked me if I was interested in doing any research and getting some work experience. That opened a lot of doors – once I was doing research, I got to go to conferences and meet people, and then I was able to get other research jobs when I got to Tech, which allowed me to make a lot of connections and learn a lot. Recognize all the opportunities you have in college and won’t necessarily have later on.”
- Emily Shepherd – Intern, Oglethorpe University
“We believe that younger generations are the future and this is what is going be the future, so we need to educate young people because they are the ones that are going to be either creating solar or green energy, or using it. We think it’s really important to be out here, talking to kids and explaining it to them.
“The power industry is really cool. I’m an intern, so I’m in college still, and to some power might seem kind of lame, but it’s actually really interesting and cool. It’s something that’s never going to go away because people will always need electricity, and there are a lot of jobs available. A lot of people are about to retire, and there are over 17,000 job openings expected over the next five years for engineers in the power industry. It’s always updating!”
- Jeff Petrea – Area Manager, Georgia Power
“Georgia Power is happy to be involved in the Sandy Springs community. In the bigger picture we are key on getting students involved with science and technology, because we need those kids to work for us one day. We’re also trying to teach today about using energy wisely, with alternative light bulbs. Using energy wisely means cheaper bills for you and prevents us from building new plants, so in the long haul it’s better for everyone.
“What I want high school students to know, is that whatever you want to do going forward, you can do it with Georgia Power. If you want to go to college to be an engineer, or an accountant, or a marketing salesperson, do it, and you can find a job here. For those who don’t have the means or don’t want to go to college, we hire folks to be line personnel, to take phone calls, to set up services. If you come to us right out of high school, we can subsidize and allow you to get your degree through night school.”
- Tony Clarke – Secretary, North Perimeter Optimist Club
“We work with the youth of the community and the STEM event is designed to work with the youth of the community. We feel like there’s a synergy between us and we want to promote the concept of STEM. At Woodland Elementary just down the street we donated money to fund a weather station project. We are very much involved in the community and we want to see schools get the types of things they need to educate the children.
“We want to make sure high-schoolers know that we are open to forming a junior Optimist club, which would enable kids to organize and carry out service projects. We want everyone to consider the philosophy of optimism. We think it’s the way everybody should be – it’s not a cult or religion, but it’s just a way of life.”
- Ty Klein – Student at Sandy Springs Middle School
“Science is my favorite subject at school, and I’m thinking about being an engineer. Maybe I’ll go to North Springs!”
The future is looking bright!