It was all about STEM, STEAM and students Wednesday during a Northern Nevada Development Authority breakfast gathering in the Carson Nugget casino ballroom.
An audience gathered to hear from Beth Wells, executive director of the Nevada STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Coalition, as well as from Richard Stokes, Carson City School District superintendent. Stokes said arts were added to the acronym in his district to broaden education and work force development here. But he also brought along Carson High School students and they stole the show.
“The arts are absolutely necessary,” said Samantha Lowe, a CHS senior, “to help with the science and math.”
Lowe was joined by others in appearing before the crowd to talk about problem solving rather than rote learning experiences, among them members of the Carp Nerdum robotics team to demonstrate a device. The appearances by the students fit almost seamlessly with points made earlier by both Wells and Stokes.
Wells said the goal of STEM is to develop tomorrow’s skilled leaders and workers in an increasingly competitive state, national and international environment.
“We’re all scrambling for the same small pool of skilled workers,” Wells said of current work force problems, which she indicated means today’s and tomorrow’s STEM education or training is going to prove crucial. She said estimates are some 20 percent of current jobs require STEM skills and up to 80 percent are going to in time.
For those reasons, she said, classroom experiences must include “hands on, real world, problem solving” challenges so students will gain the critical thinking capacity they will need in tomorrow’s world.
Stokes said Carson City schools have widened the approach to include the arts and humanities, then let the students do his talking for him. Along with Lowe’s assertion the arts, and particularly music, broaden real world learning, the audience heard from Michael Leikin and Caven Lehman, seniors, Zach Simms, a junior, Christian Martinez, a freshman, as well as the robotics club representatives.
Another five students on hand Wednesday were: Ethan and Kacey Lopes; Nicholas Bowler; Zac Frewert, and Saul Yanez. That group showed off the First Tech Challenge robotic device that was designed by team members to pick up whiffle or golf balls and deposit them in goals of varying heights.
The students’ morning contribution wowed the crowd and seemed to echo the contention of Wells during her earlier remarks: “The students are self-directed; you add science, sometimes all of the (coursework test) scores go up.”