STEM Day Draws Hundreds of Young Scholars

by Cyndie Hoff

Offering activities, experience, and resources for young students who envision careers in science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Azusa Pacific’s fifth annual STEM Day exceeded all previous years’ attendance records. Hosted by APU’s University Libraries and the Center for Research in Science on West Campus, February 3, 2018, this year’s event, “Inspiring Wonder through STEM,” welcomed students in grades 1-12 to participate in an array of age-appropriate STEM projects.

What began in 2014 as an avenue for 100 Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to achieve their science merit badges, now includes nearly 700 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, nonscouts, homeschooled students, and public school students; involves 26 classes (in 41 sessions) taught by 15 APU faculty and staff members and more than 30 APU students from the Departments of Mathematics and Physics and Liberal Studies, among others; and runs smoothly with the help of more than 40 APU student volunteers.This year's event drew representatives from local elected officials who support STEM education, including Marco Lundgren from the Office of Senator Anthony J. Portantino and Carrie Lam from the Office of Congresswoman Grace Napolitano.

The program, coordinated by Dave Landers, Ed.D., director of education and community outreach, Special Collections, University Libraries, helps prepare the next generation to engage in some of the fastest-growing occupations, as projected by the U.S. Department of Labor, many of which rely heavily on solid math and science skills. However, many local elementary, middle, and high school students know little about what to expect from a STEM career and how to pursue one.

“Education and careers in STEM are the future,” said Landers. “APU recognizes that young people need strong STEM skills to compete in a global market that is increasingly competitive.” STEM Day at APU exposes these students to the university setting and introduces these subjects in creative and entertaining ways.

For example, some students built and programmed small robots in a class taught by Barnabas Robotics. At the end of the day, they had a “bot war” to see who could push the other robots out of a circle. Others joined the San Gabriel Mountain Conservancy course and learned about the local hills and wetlands. In the filmmaking classes, students learned about the equipment, editing, and writing aspects of movie making. They created a short movie to take with them back to their schools or scout groups. Students in the railroading class worked with the Pomona RailGiants Train Museum to build a small railroad and learn about railroading history and how trains work. In the chemistry classes, students engaged in hands-on activities that demonstrated scientific principles and used the scientific method.

Throughout the day, as young scholars explored new areas of math and science, their college counterparts also gained valuable experience. Science majors honed their research and presentation skills, liberal studies students practiced their teaching techniques, and several volunteers learned the ins and outs of event planning, business communication, public relations, and marketing. STEM Day at APU has quickly become one of the university’s most popular community outreach programs by demonstrating to upcoming college students that science, technology, engineering, and math are not only interesting and stable career paths, but subjects worth studying in the context of a Christian university, where the intellectually curious can find myriad research opportunities in cutting-edge fields as they freely seek the Truth.

Cynndie Hoff is a freelance writer living in Walnut, California.