Written by Maegan Hinson, CECAS Outreach Coordinator
PEER & WISE hosted our annual STEM Day event this past Saturday, February 20th. Over ninety middle school students from across the country joined us via Zoom for a day of exploring engineering. Primarily from underrepresented backgrounds, these students were able to meet and chat with current PEER mentors. Our mentors shared their stories of how they came to choose engineering as a major and the people who inspired them along the way. Representatives from Boeing and the US Army, our sponsors for STEM Day, were able to join us to share about their company and the career opportunities for engineers there. Because of their sponsorship, we were able to make STEM Day an all-inclusive experience, providing each student with all the materials needed to participate in each of the hands-on activities.
Throughout the event, students participated in 4 hands-on activities led by Clemson students from the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences (CECAS). The Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department’s Outreach Team, led by Varun Gopal and Zachariah Pittman, used a recipe for slime to teach students about chemical engineering. Students were provided 2 materials, color-changing glue and slime activator liquid. They investigated the properties of each substance as they observed changes in the color and feel of the materials. They learned how chemical engineers use different substances to design new materials based on human factors and needs.
The Society of Women in Engineers, led by Laura Stuart, introduced students to the concepts of bioengineering as it relates to medicine. Students participated in a hands-on experiment to test the effectiveness of coatings for pills. They discussed the importance of this as it relates to our overall health. Students were also able to hear from a recent bioengineering alum, Cassidy Barringer, who shared her experience at Clemson and her transition to industry as an Associate Clinical Specialist in Electrophysiology at Abbott.
Helena Upshaw, a Computer Science major, and Annie Woofter, an Electrical Engineering major, lead the session on computer science. They introduced coding as it related to making animals dance on the website hourofcode.org. Students were able to see how to set up steps in this program and how it related to the language of computers. They were also able to hear from Natalie DellaMaria, a recent Computer Science graduate, who now works for Tesla.
The last session was led by Kathryn Cooke, a current Clemson student who is interning with NASA. In this session, students learned about the world of NASA and how engineers work to make it possible to explore outer space. They completed an activity to learn about the placement of planets and how it relates to space exploration.
Although students were not able to attend the event on campus this year, this virtual environment proved to be beneficial in many ways. We were able to bring in alumni who were working in different parts of the country. Students from many different states were able to attend our event and hear about the great opportunities that Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences could offer them. Parents were also able to connect with us, hopefully to begin forming a relationship that will last through the coming years.