Engineering majors organize competition to pique interest in STEM careers

1:37 p.m., May 22, 2014–High school students from seven Delaware high schools converged on campus earlier this month for the University of Delaware’s inaugural STEM at UD competition.

The event was organized by four chemical and biomolecular engineering students involved with UD’s Blue Hen Leadership Program (BHLP) as part of a ongoing campus effort to improve K-12 interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“As part of the second tier of BHLP, we were challenged to identify something that could be improved at UD and work together to create a solution,” explained Nickolas Martin, a sophomore chemical engineering major and Honors Program student. “As STEM majors, we thought it was a good opportunity to engage the undergraduate community in STEM outreach.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the nation is losing ground in the global STEM community, currently ranked 25th in mathematics and 17th in science. With decreased emphasis on STEM education, fewer students are pursuing STEM related degree and career fields.

“If we want our future generations to be competitive in the global STEM market, it is important now more than ever to invest in STEM education,” said Martin.

Working with Melissa Jurist, academic program manager for the College of Engineering‘s K-12 Outreach Program, Martin and his peers helped staff several STEM outreach events throughout the year. As a culmination of their efforts, the students decided to organize an on-campus event that would bring together high school students interested in STEM careers.

“High school students can identify with and be inspired by their college peers, who can share valuable advice, success, and even failure-to-success stories,” Jurist noted.

UD student volunteers acted as group leaders, answering questions about college and STEM majors.

Teams of high school students competed in four different challenges in biology, chemical engineering, civil engineering and math. Prizes were awarded to the teams with the top three performance scores.

Other UD STEM outreach programs include the Young Engineers and Exploring Engineering camps, in which third through 10th graders with interests in science, math and engineering learn about STEM related careers and participate in hands-on projects like building and racing solar-powered cars.

For more information, visit the College of Engineering’s K-12 outreach website.

Article by Jessica Zoch

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

BiomedicalSTEM at UD