Local business people rediscover the fun in science, math, engineering, technology
More than 150 people gathered inside the Christensen Shipyards warehouse in Vancouver flanked by a pair of three-story-high yachts to have their DNA tested or taste hot ice cream during an interactive event that demonstrated how Clark College is preparing students for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.
Clark College Foundation, in partnership with Christensen Shipyards, held the special event on Saturday evening. The gathering showed local businesspeople how Clark matches the community’s workforce needs with training, education and internships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Jim and Kelly Maul, from the Vancouver environmental engineering firm Maul, Foster & Alongi Inc., stood transfixed as Clark engineering student Jesse Bosdell described how a water clock worked and that the clocks were part of a campus-wide competition.
“You’ve got to put the fun into science and engineering first, and then the passion will come later,” said Jim Maul. His wife, Kelly, said she was “fired up to go back to school” after seeing the student demonstrations.
The couple has two daughters who they hope to steer toward a STEM education. Clark is on their list of higher education options.
Guest Tim Kraft, a civil engineer and one of the principals at the water resources company Otak Inc., said Clark College offers critical programs that aren’t available at other community colleges. “I see what Clark does and it’s impressive.” Kraft also mentors youth with interests in science and engineering in the Southwest Washington area.
Clark College President Robert K. Knight addressed the guests by acknowledging the regional businesses present and how in partnership, they drive the region’s economic prosperity. “It’s vitally important that the community and Clark College work together to provide an educated workforce to meet the 17,000 jobs that regional economists predict will require education in STEM by 2015.”
The event was part of the Ensuring a Bright Future: Campaign for Clark College. Funds raised during the campaign are aimed at enhancing scholarships, faculty professional development, technology infrastructure, STEM and dental hygiene education.
Lisa Gibert, president and CEO of Clark College Foundation, said it was exciting to see guests clearly fascinated with the student achievements. “This evening brings me so much pride to showcase the great work Clark is doing and how that education translates to jobs in our region and beyond.”
Guests had the opportunity to learn about water clocks built with coconuts and bamboo; a rocket that is part of a national NASA competition; software for mass-identifying license plates; the weight distribution of a package of Chips-Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies; DNA sampling and more.
Some of the business community members represented included Portland Plastics, Corwin Beverage, Wells Fargo Advisors, Columbia Credit Union, Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital, Sterling Bank, Mekos Corporation, Silicon Forest Electronics and SEH America Inc., among others.
Discover more photos on Flickr
Watch Pam Peiper test her DNA
While I was doing biology demonstrations at the STEM event Saturday my 7 year old granddaughter Kacee came by for about an hour. I had no idea that a handful of incidental things that she did had a beautiful and inspiring impact on her. She visited all the tables. She saw Phil Jones putting on his “hospital” gloves before handling DNA and he gave her a pair. She added DNA into a gel. She weighed cookies, ate ice cream and felt the super cold bowl as it was filled with liquid nitrogen. Then she and my wife drove home while I stayed to clean up. When I arrived at home she popped up and announced that she and I were going to do an “experiment”. She had assembled on the kitchen table many elements that to her were interesting, chemical and scientific. They included food coloring, a flashlight, the gloves Phil gave her, an egg beater and a bowl. We made concoctions of colored water, whipped it, shone light into it and otherwise enjoyed it as you can see in the picture.
I had no idea that her little visit to the STEM event would create such an exuberant burst of “experimentation”. At times I’ve done something that encouraged a student and it meant MUCH more to the student than I could have imagined.
The STEM people at Clark contributed to a blissful evening Saturday and I’m appreciative.