SPC STEM Festival: The future is now

PETERSBURG — I will tell you right now that I am not a techie, but I try to stay abreast. You get too far behind with technology, and you become afraid of it. I don’t do scared, but I am curious. Especially when I find out about careers that our children have never heard of that fits their interests and are high paying.

Held both indoors and outdoors at the St. Petersburg College (SPC) Clearwater campus, the premiere STEM Festival event was sponsored by SPC, Pinellas County Schools K-12 STEM Department and the First Lego League.

In its third year, the festival drew close to 1,000 people for a day science and technology, food and fun. The entire family was able to experience first-hand exploratory activities within the STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field.

Everything was there: Drones, artificial intelligence, robotics, air flight simulations, science activity rooms, a rock climb challenge and marine activities. Information was also available on engineering, mechatronics, biology, health, computer information technology and veterinary technology.

The First Lego League Challenge had robotics demonstration going on. First League is a collaboration between FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and the LEGO Group.

FIRST is considered to be one of the foremost STEM engagement programs in the country. Founded in 1989, it was founded to inspire young people’s interest in STEM. It encourages students to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

STEM Festival Project Director Kay Morgan is the student support manager at the Midtown Campus. Her goal is to create interest and awareness in “engaging, age-appropriate, imaginative STEM opportunities.”

Lori Craig, grant project manager, Mechatronics Engineering Technology is encouraging those interested in a STEM career to check out the Mechatronics, a multi-skilled field that combines computers, electronics and robotics. Offered by the Workforce Institute at SPC, the free program it is a hybrid course with online classes and labs on site.

The 30-hour course uses state-of-the-art equipment and hands-on lab activities to teach you about robotics, pneumatics, motors and controls, automation and sensors and programmable logic controllers. Compensation in the field is lucrative, and the outlook for employment is very promising.

First-grader Cameron and his mother Felisha Handy completely enjoyed the festival. His favorites included the rock climbing station and the robotics display.

“This was a great opportunity for my son to see peers building and working together as a team,” said Handy. “One of the most precious moments was watching his eyes light up when I asked him if he would like a robotics kit.”

Morgan said next June, the college will offer a four-week summer camp program called Summer of Excellence for students in grades 8-11.

“Early exposure to STEM careers is the first step in leading to higher wage earners. Some of these careers don’t even require four years of college,” said Morgan, adding that she envisions adding arts to the offering, making it a STEAM course.

The future is now. Early exposure is vital.

SPC received a Department of Economic Opportunity Job Growth Grant from the state of Florida to provide Mechatronics Electromechanical Technician Training. An informational and assessment session will be held Dec. 1 from 9-1:30 p.m. at the Downtown campus, 460 244 2nd Ave. N, in room 460.

The hybrid classes will begin in Jan. 2019.  For questions or concern, contact Lori Craig at Craig.Lori@spcollege.edu or (727) 791-2505.

For more information about STEM Festival, contact Kay Morgan at Morgan.Kay@spcollege.edu  (727) 398-8225.

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