Regional STEM Summit draws nearly 300 high school students from the region
As De'Lana Northbird learned how to extract DNA from wheat germ Tuesday in Bemidji, she may have gotten a glimpse of her future career. The Cass Lake-Bena High School freshman, who wants to explore a career in science, said the Regional STEM Summ...
As De'Lana Northbird learned how to extract DNA from wheat germ Tuesday in Bemidji, she may have gotten a glimpse of her future career.
The Cass Lake-Bena High School freshman, who wants to explore a career in science, said the Regional STEM Summit at Bemidji State University was the perfect opportunity.
"I'm really interested in forensic science, so I'm here," Northbird said.
She joined nearly 300 high school students from the region at Tuesday's summit, which was one of eight Regional STEM Summits being presented around the state by the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota High Tech Association.
The summit, which featured a program, exhibits and tours, highlighted the rapidly growing higher education and career opportunities in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
"We at the department are committed to getting more students interested in science, math, technology and engineering because it's where their future is," MDE Assistant Commissioner Karen Klinzing said Tuesday in Bemidji.
She said the STEM disciplines are essential to success in higher education and careers, regardless of the field.
MHTA President Kate Rubin agreed that studying the STEM disciplines is critical. She said math, for example, helps students think critically and solve problems, and students who take two years of algebra in high school double their chances of graduating from college in four years.
"So we're trying to spread the word," Rubin said.
For students who chose a STEM field for a career, the opportunities are great.
Klinzing said the number of jobs available in the STEM fields is projected to grow by 20-33 percent within the next 10 years.
Rubin added that STEM job wages are 67 percent higher than the average Minnesota wage. However, she also noted that 85 percent of the fastest growing jobs require some education beyond high school.
At the summit, BSU President Jon Quistgaard told the high school students that so many wonderful opportunities exist in the STEM fields.
"I hope that you will keep your interest in this area," he said.
Also attending the summit was Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor James H. McCormick, who was visiting BSU and Northwest Technical College Tuesday.
He said hopes the Regional STEM Summits around the state will encourage more students to graduate from high school, attend a college or university and major in STEM fields or take STEM courses.
"Many of the jobs in the future will require that background," he said. "The future of Minnesota depends on ... having people prepared for these jobs."
Cass Lake-Bena High School freshman Esther Stoltenburg said she decided to attend the summit because she wanted to learn more about careers.
"I wanted to know my opportunities," she said.
Northome High School sophomore Heather Moe, who is interested in biology, also attended the summit.
"My teachers were encouraging me and I thought it'd be a good idea," she said. "I think it's really interesting."
A steady stream of students visited the exhibits at the summit, including one on BSU's Center for Environmental, Earth and Space Studies. Tim Kroeger, professor of geology at BSU, spoke with students about BSU's environmental studies program and potential career opportunities. He noted that there is a strong demand for environmental scientists.
At another exhibit, TEAM Industries representatives told students that STEM careers exist right in rural Minnesota. Not only did the Bagley-based company participate in the summit to promote technology in manufacturing, engineering and industry in rural Minnesota, but to show students the importance of higher education, said Brian Wolf, products support engineering manager for TEAM Industries in Bagley.
Bemidji High School senior Ray Ekstrom and sophomore Jake Flaa, meanwhile, had the roles of both students and exhibitors at the summit.
Along with other BHS students, they displayed projects from their Project Lead The Way classes, which center on a pre-engineering curriculum. The projects on display included ballistic devices and marble sorters built by students in the Principles of Engineering class and designs created by students in the Introduction to Engineering Design class.
Both Ekstrom and Flaa said they enjoy their PLTW classes.
"It's challenging, but it's rewarding," Ekstrom said.