Science centers and STEM careers
As the father of two sons, I’ve been to more than my share of science museums over the years, from Cleveland to Portland, Ore. and San Francisco to Rochester, N.Y. These institutions have been playing an increased role in recent years in encouraging students to pursue STEM careers — as their very nature is to get kids interested in science and technology. Oftentimes, this is accomplished through having a little fun in the process, whether by allowing kids to control a robot or putting their hands inside a tornado-like vortex of smoke as they explore the Coriolis effect.
I recently had the chance to tour the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT), which is connected to the Boeing Center at Tech Port. San Antonio’s Tech Port is a creative re-development of the old Kelly Air Force Base, which closed in 1998. Tech Port also includes the new DeLorian headquarters; the iconic car manufacturer is now planning to build a new electric vehicle called the Alpha5.
SAMSAT’s mission is to engage with children and get them excited about science and technology — from cybersecurity to rockets. There’s a lot happening here. It just moved into a new space in the past year. Boeing is in the process of building a new history of aviation exhibit that will be opening by the end of 2023. Plus, there’s a very cool LAN gaming center next door that feels like something out of Star Trek.
The museum has 500 artifacts across the street and more than 20,000 more in storage, so there are plenty of opportunities to grow. And there’s even a program where they bring in children from under-resourced neighborhoods in the city to participate in a weeklong space camp.
What really struck me was seeing real-world technology in the museum — a huge Fanuc robot and a Di Vinci surgical system proudly held center stage, along with the historical items like early desktop computers and cell phones. I believe that’s what we need more of today, showing kids the actual products that engineers create, not simply historical artifacts and far-flung futuristic ideas.
The products we’re already building are pretty awe-inspiring to our kids and can serve to engage them. While I’m constantly reminding our readers to get involved with local science centers and their FIRST robotics programs, it’s also a good idea to start a conversation about whether your company can donate some innovative products or machinery to those same centers. That could be the spark to send someone into a STEM career.
Paul J. Heney – VP, Editorial Director
On Twitter @wtwh_paulheney
Filed Under: DIGITAL ISSUES