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Calif. Educators, Employers Look to Boost "STEM" Programs

CPR photo/Ben Adler

Caleb Leung (left) and Scully Randlett, 7th graders at Alice Fong Yu K-8 Chinese Immersion School in San Francisco, build a cantilever bridge Monday using paper rolls and scotch tape at the STEM Symposium in Sacramento.

CPR photo/Ben Adler

San Francisco 7th-graders Caleb Leung and Scully Randlett are making a bridge out of white paper and scotch tape.

“We started off with flat paper, and we rolled it up with knitting needles,” Leung explains.  “It’s gonna be a full-size cantilever bridge that’s a basic replica of the top half of the Bay Bridge,” Randlett adds.  (The old Bay Bridge, that is – the new one’s more complicated.)

Randlett says he’s always been interested in making things – and this program at his school is helping him get some future job experience.  “You might want to get a job as an engineer, and someone wants you to build a bridge across a creek or something.  You could go back to this and remember – oh yeah, the degree angles is 45 degrees for each one, besides the top two, or something like that.”

The paper bridge is one of a couple dozen exhibits at a two-day STEM Symposium in Sacramento.  “STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“So many companies are just searching for the talent, and they’re not finding it among our graduates.  So we have an imperative, really to improve our interest in science – keep it alive at an early, young age – so that those students will stay the course, take the hard math classes, take the science classes they need to become those future inventors,” says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The event is drawing some 2,000 educators, students, business leaders and philanthropists.