Stem Day 2014

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Pine Forest High School student Miesha Brown of Fayetteville, right, interacts with ECU construction management teaching instructor Bryan Wheeler during a STEM Day presentation.  (Photos and video by Cliff Hollis)


High school students explore STEM disciplines at ECU

Feb. 24, 2014

By Jamitress Bowden
ECU News Services

Roughly 300 high school students from eastern North Carolina experimented with concepts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at East Carolina University on Feb. 21.

The “future engineers and researchers” were enthusiastic about the day’s opportunities, said Shawn Moore, assistant director of the Center for STEM Education at ECU. They participated in hands-on activities related to STEM degrees and careers. This is the third year ECU has hosted the event.

“This day will show them what the next step is in their academic career,” said Moore.

As an ECU graduate, Moore recalled having an interest in science when he was younger. “We’re fueling the fire. This is the opportunity for them to see beyond where they are now.”

Accompanied by their teachers, the high school students attended sessions led by ECU professors and students from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Sessions include engineering, physics, technology, mathematics, chemistry, biology, construction management, computer science, geology, geography, atmospheric science and math education.

John Kenney, assistant chair for undergraduate studies in Department of Physics, provided students an activity identifying elements using spectroscopy. Using light, students had to match the colors emitted to identify different gases like neon and hydrogen.

Kenney said the session was fun, accessible and beautiful. He wanted to participate in STEM Day because he enjoys teaching students interested in the subject matter and encouraging students to enter the physics discipline, he said.

One of the math sessions was provided by Heather Ries, associate professor of mathematics, who used a hands-on activity to present algebra differently. Students wrote their favorite color, associated each letter with a number and used algebraic equations to encode a new word for their partner to decode.

STEM Day visitors Adrianne Freeman, left, and Jasmine Foreman examine a miniature car that was created using ECU's 3-D printer.
Two high school juniors from Northside High School in Pinetown, Norvia Jennette and Kelsey Lange, attended Ries’ math session. Lange said she enjoyed learning more about the different majors offered at ECU. Before today, she said she thought ECU was an “artsy school.”

“I liked that (the activities) were very hands-on and you got to experiment,” said Jennette, who is interested in forensic science. At STEM Day, she learned more about how forensic science relates to mechanical engineering and said she is now considering a degree in engineering. 

Catherine Coleman, an English teacher at Hoggard High School in Wilmington, brought 21 students with her to STEM Day. She described the event as a unique way to visit a college. “I’m hoping they learn what’s involved in those majors and the careers associated with them,” she said.

Margaret Turner, public relations coordinator for the College of Technology and Computer Science, organized this year’s event. She said most attendees were high school juniors who are beginning their decisions about college.

“Learning more about what ECU can offer them is important at this point in their process,” said Turner.

The undergraduate and graduate students who assisted with the event take pride in helping expose the high school students to ECU and the education ECU offers. “This is the first time some students are even on a college campus,” said Lisa Eckert, a senior biomedical engineering student.

“We get a lot of students (attending STEM day) who don’t understand exactly what these majors mean,” said Betsy Mitchell, senior mechanical engineering student at ECU. “I didn’t understand what engineering was until I came to ECU.”

Robotic demonstrations like the one shown below are always a popular event during STEM Day.