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STEAM Expo Promotes Sciences and Technology Through Hands-On Learning

Ah, Saturday. For a student, that means freedom from school and everything that comes with it. But some students from the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley recently volunteered a Saturday afternoon to learn about future career paths in science and technology.

The Santa Clarita/Antelope Valley STEAM Expo brought together more than 150 students from throughout area on January 28 for a day of workshops and demonstrations designed to pique their interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) related subjects.

Organizers hoped that by creating a fun atmosphere, students would see the benefits that STEAM-related careers could bring them in the long run and encourage them to consider college and career options in those fields.

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By breaking down stereotypes students have about science and technology, employers will benefit from a more diverse workforce in the future. USA Today reports that leading technology companies such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo! vastly under employ African Americans and Hispanics. Those groups make up 5 percent of the company’s workforce, compared to 14 percent of the nationally.

“Our community will benefit from awareness of the opportunities in the STEAM field,” said Paula Hodge, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information and Communication Technologies at Santa Clarita Community College District.

Student and Parent Experience

The day’s events were designed to give students a hands-on look at some of the science and technology they use every day, Hodge said. Elementary and middle school students learned about the science of bubbles, while older students attended workshops in animation and website design.

Jack and Jill selected event topics and speakers. Jack and Jill is a non-profit African-American family organization that provides programming to children ages 2-19 in the areas of financial literacy, culture, career development, leadership, philanthropy, healthy living, and more.

STEAM Expo Event Chair Lisa Holmes said she tried to focus on fun activities for younger students and move toward career exploration for middle and high school students.

“My hope was to provide a combination of workshop learning with some hands on activities at every age group,” Holmes said. “For our younger kids we had things like Lego World and robotics. We also provided classroom learning with career panelists who spoke about careers in STEAM.”

The activities seemed to resonate well with students and parents alike.

“My favorite part was the science experiments. I mixed chemicals; I also mixed fluoride too,” said Pico Canyon Elementary student Isabella Provencio told The Paw Print. “At school, I do some experiments with water, but I don’t do them with chemicals.”

Holmes said parents enjoyed seeing what their students were doing and were just as excited about some of the events.

“They got to see from a firsthand perspective what their child learned,” Holmes said. “They were excited about what had been presented to them that day.”

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Students also learned that STEAM-related careers extend far beyond what they might think of as science.

“STEAM is something that is important. You don’t necessarily have to be a scientist, but it is something you need to be exposed to because the world is constantly changing,” said Lamar Taylor, one of the event’s presenters.

Hodge said expo organizers were hoping for 70 attendees, but more than doubled that with 159 participants. The more students become interested in these fields now, the more robust the workforce will become, Hodge said.

“The goal is to make this event one in which science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics are celebrated and provide realistic ideas of how a career in STEAM is obtainable to those demographics with the largest gap in technology exposure and education,” Hodge said.

Building Community Partnerships

The STEAM Expo was presented by the Santa Clarita Valley/Antelope Valley Chapter of Jack and Jill of America and made possible by a $4500 grant from the Santa Clarita Community College District under the Doing What Matters program.

Instructors came from throughout business and industry and included Lamar Taylor, a supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Jeffrey Baker, an animation instructor at College of the Canyons.

Holmes said she received positive feedback on the event from community partners who are already eager to get involved with next year’s expo or other events that Jack and Jill holds. Planning for next year will start in the coming months.

“We received calls from vendors to tell us that they thought it was an awesome event,” Holmes said. “We are excited to continue to build those relationships with community partners.”

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Ebony Macon Johnson, president of the Jack and Jill Santa Clarita Valley/Antelope Valley chapter, said the organization was honored to participate in the event for the second year in a row.

“As Jack and Jill members, one aim of our national organization is ‘to seek for all children the same advantages which we desire for our own.’ With this event, we were able to expose children of diverse backgrounds to various STEAM fields through fun activities and pique their interest in a potential career in STEAM,” Macon Johnson said.

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