Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fair opens opportunities for St. Francis students

 Students at St. Francis High School in Sacramento had an opportunity to explore career possibilities in the sciences at the school’s annual STEM Fair on Oct. 29.
Members of the St. Francis Robotics team (the “Fembots”) with their newest creation, “Lucky.” This robot plays soccer – it can actually kick a ball and run with it – and is able to hang from seven feet in the air, thanks to a robotic hook. Left to right, Dani Demas, junior; Jasmine Randhawa, sophomore; and Ashley Peng, senior. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Susan Laird

Members of the St. Francis Robotics team (the “Fembots”) with their newest creation, “Lucky.” This robot plays soccer – it can actually kick a ball and run with it – and is able to hang from seven feet in the air, thanks to a robotic hook. Left to right, Dani Demas, junior; Jasmine Randhawa, sophomore; and Ashley Peng, senior. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Susan Laird

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – areas in which women traditionally do not pursue careers. Some 30 companies staffed booths at the fair, with the intent to show the students at the all-girl school just what is possible.

“I want them to see the technology throughout the branches of service,” said Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Stephen Kujawa as he encouraged the young women to check out a secured radio, night vision goggles and other items. “This allows them to see the technology behind the scenes. Military technology developed the GPS, night vision goggles and secured radios. It benefits everyone.”

The Fembots, the St. Francis High School Robotics Team, had their own booth to show off two of the robots the club made in the last two years: the B-2 and “Lucky.”

The students designed the B-2 to pick up moon rocks – simulated by “moonballs.” Lucky is the 2010 model. It plays soccer and scores points “by hanging off a seven-foot tall tower as long as possible,” according to members of the team.

Students learned at the fair that they can approach technology from many different angles.

“I’m a very hands-on person,” said Camille Soutiere, a junior and rookie robotics team member. “I’m not an electronics person, I’m the building kind of person. Tell me what to build and I’ll build it.”

“I just thought it would be really cool to learn about robotics and just to learn more about being around public speaking,” said Jordin Fong, a freshman and also a rookie robotics team member. “This semester, I did a presentation on my rookie year thus far to PLATT, one of our sponsors. PLATT is an electronics supply company.”

Career opportunities presented ranged from (literally) rocket science to nursing to accounting and financial management to criminal science investigation (CSI).

“We’re still using rockets in the space program,” said Sharon Clark, director of training and organizational development at Aerojet. “We would hire a woman engineer in a heartbeat.”

“We’re here to encourage young women to consider careers in STEM,” said Lora Anguay, SMUD project manager. “It’s important because we are always looking for engineers and people working in engineering and technology.”

Anne Smith Harty, NP was on hand to discuss the advantages of nursing careers. She is also an alumna of the school.

“Nursing can be a very flexible for women,” Harty said. “If you work in one field for a few years and you want to move on to a different field in nursing, you can. You don’t have to start all over. You use critical thinking skills and it’s very rewarding to know at the end of the day that you have helped someone. And: you can get a job anywhere in the world.”

“We’re here just to expose students at St. Francis to potential careers with the FBI that are related to science,” said Steven Dupre, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Engineering and science majors are backgrounds that we recruit for agents and professional support positions, such as evidence response teams. Science ties directly into investigations.”

Senior St. Francis Troubadours were taking a hard look at the possibilities in store for them, as well. College application deadlines are looming ever closer, and the choice of major can be vital with admission to some colleges. The stakes for high school seniors across the country are high, so every bit of information about a potential major is important. The choice of college can turn on a dime.

“I want to go into prosthetics,” said Senior Ashley Peng. “I originally wanted to go into mechanical engineering. But an experience I had at the Shriner’s Hospital made me think about the need for prosthetics. And a sculpting class with Mr. Romo made me interested. At the fair today, I met people from Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics. They handed me an entire list of colleges that specialize in prosthetics. So the STEM Fair really helped with my college apps.”