Samueli School Hosts OC STEM Workshop

July 21, 2015 -- More than 100 teachers and administrators from nine Orange County school districts participated in a day-long OC STEM Institute workshop this month hosted by the Samueli School of Engineering. The event was part of the OC STEM Institute’s summer intensive, which provides educators with tools to help students maintain interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects from grade school through high school.

The workshop focused on helping educators convey the message that engineering careers are within reach if students stay motivated to take STEM courses throughout high school.

After a morning session about the importance of project-based learning from a business perspective, the attendees learned about and experimented with Raspberry Pi credit-card size computers. The Samueli School provided lunch, and then the group toured FABWorks and RapidTech before heading to Broadcom Corp. for the afternoon.

Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington, addressing the educators, made a case for why engineering is an important discipline for students to study. “Some of our most pressing policy issues – energy, healthcare and the environment – require engineering and technology literacy if we are going to develop real-world solutions.”  

Washington shared his vision of creating an opportunity for establishing make labs in every single school in Orange County. “I believe it is an achievable goal. How many of you are up to the task?” he asked.

The workshop attendees included representatives from preschool/early learning, after-school programming and “informal” science centers, and school administrators, as well as STEM-subject teachers from elementary, middle and high schools.

Vern Burton, a principal at Harbor Learning Center, found the day illuminating. “It was fantastic, exciting and a good learning experience,” he said. “The Raspberry Pi exercise was amazing. I knew there was small technology out there, but I had no idea it could be so inexpensive. Great for kids who are not tech-savvy. So simple, but it really carries the wow factor.”

Tami Morrison, a parent liaison for the Fountain Valley School District and mother of three school-aged children, was impressed by the speakers and take-aways. “It’s unfortunate that the whole district can’t come and experience this,” she said.

The Samueli School’s Leyla Riley, director of academic innovation and partnerships, sits on the OC STEM Board of Directors. She believes it’s important for the Samueli School to be involved in activities and partnerships such as this. “Since engineering is not yet formally integrated into K-12 curricula we must work with our public and private partners to build a STEM ecosystem that promotes the core elements of engineering,” she said. “We see our involvement with OC STEM as part of our broader commitment to give back to Orange County and do our part to strengthen and promote STEM education.”

-- Lori Brandt; photos, Debbie Morales

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