Experts and Interactive Activities at Amherst Central High School's STEAM Career Expo
Amherst Central High School made it easier for students to pick a college major or career path on Thursday when more than 30 tech, science, health and arts organizations visited for the second annual STEAM Career Expo filled the gymnasium with informational tables and interactive experiences.
“As a student in high school who’s trying to pick out a college and [career path], I know that there’s a lot of students that don’t know what they want to do,” said Emily Watkins. “They’ll be like, ‘I know what classes I’m good in and I know what I’m interested in, but I don’t know what jobs use those classes.’”
Watkins, an eleventh grader at ACHS and an Amherst Academies member that helped organize the event, was one of many students that saw potential value in in the career expo after its success from last year. She said that the career expo is a good first step to solving that problem, especially since each table showed what kind of coursework, such as calculus or art, is needed for that kind of field or career.
“I think by the time kids are in eleventh grade they know what direction they want to head in, what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing, and I think the problem is finding a job that brings it all together,” she said.
Christina Evans, a business teacher and Lead for the Amherst Academies program, also thought that last year’s expo was a success and that it did a great job at showing students what kinds of career paths they can take.
"In April 2017, we held our first ever STEAM Career Expo and it was a huge success. The students were very engaged and learned how science, technology, engineering, arts, and math are used in a multitude of exciting careers," said Evans. "The students told us how much they really enjoyed it."
“This [event] brings students to where they can see all the different options,” Watkins said. “When you go online and search colleges, it’s not as productive because you don’t necessarily know what you want to do or what kinds of colleges you should be looking at, so this really brings all of that together and shows kids what’s out there.”
This rings true for Natalie Terhaar, a community coordinator for National Grid. She says that it’s important to expose kids to what they can apply their coursework to in the workforce.
“One of our biggest priorities at National Grid is STEAM and encouraging students to go into those fields,” said Terhaar. “There’s a huge need for engineers at our company because around 30 percent of our workforce is retiring. We really want to encourage women to get into the engineering fields as well. But, a lot of math isn’t always required to work with us either. Instead of engineering you could get into marketing with National Grid and that’s why it’s important to get the word out.
Showing students the endless amount of paths they can take is also important for their educational aspirations. Kirsten Dean, a biology undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo, was one of many student assistants promoting the university’s Genome, Environment and Microbiome Community of Excellence. Like Terhaar, she says it’s important to show students the wide variety of fields, as well as the different backgrounds, such as college, that are needed to have a career in them.
“It’s really important to get people involved at an early age and exposed to different fields they might not directly learn about in high school. I know that microbiology isn’t really a focus that kids learn in their biology classes, so it’s nice to get students exposed to something they don’t typically learn about,” added Dean.
Watkins was happy to see that the event was an immediate success as students talked to experts at each table and showed expressions of amazement with interactive experiences such as using petri dishes or looking at rocket parts and surgical equipment on display. She said that the hard work that herself and fellow students put in was worth it.
“Planning this has been crazy,” she said. “Everyone put in so much work to organize this and to set it up early this morning. Just seeing it all in motion with everyone here and learning is really great.”