STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Educators in San Joaquin County are trying to reach out to students, and especially girls, to expose them to those fields.
Nancy Stenzler with the San Joaquin County Office of Education has brought 200 girls from 6th to 12th grade to experience hands-on experiments with scientists. She's also brought 40 scientists, from civil engineers to pharmacists, and chemists to astronomers, to show why why science matters.
The girls get to play with a robotic arm to pick up a cup and move it around a board. The scientists show chemical reactions up close. At one table, girls try their hand at driving cars by remote control.
Stenzler says, unfortunately, girls’ interest in STEM starts to fall off by 7th grade, and by college fewer still pursue those fields.
“Lack of exposure, or lack of mentors - we need to motivate people, girls and boys, to go into these fields because the jobs are there and there’s definitely a shortage,” Stenzler says.
Nancy McIntyre with Robotics Education and Competition Foundation says clubs across the country are getting kids interested in STEM.
“The students are learning how to problem solve," McIntyre says. "How to work together, learn the design process, and be able to communicate.”
For some, like 9th grader Emily Chacon, it’s a different world.
“I think it’s like new, I’ve never experienced it," Chacon says. "I’ve never been to a place like this and I think it’s something I would like to learn.”
Emilee Kroll says she already knows what she wants to be.
“I want to be a vet when I grow up and science is a big part of that," Kroll says. "Figuring out how animals and humans work."
According to Teach for America, 8 million STEM jobs will be available in the U.S. but the vast majority of students in this country will be unprepared to fill them.