Student Chief Science Officers Changing the Culture of STEM Education

March 17, 2016 | Author: Tammy Wolfe

student3DWe know the youth of today have the potential to become the leading innovators, scientists and engineers of tomorrow, but the challenge is how do we inspire and motivate them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)?  

Could we impact the perception and interest in these fields through the creation of a Chief Science Officer position which allows students to be the voice of STEM?    Sierra, a student at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, describes science as “cool & exciting, and certainly proof that magic exists.”   By allowing students such as Sierra to be a voice for learning on campus and participate in conversations with community, industry and state leaders, we can indeed change the culture of STEM education.   

A little over a year ago, Honeywell Aerospace collaborated with leaders from the Arizona SciTech Festival on the development of a program geared at maximizing STEM engagement and learning opportunities for Arizona students in grades 6-12. Sponsored by Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s corporate citizenship initiative, the Chief Science Officer (CSO) program established a process whereby students are elected by fellow classmates to represent them for a variety of STEM initiatives within the school and with community and government leaders. 

HangargroupOn Feb. 19, more than 110 of these student-advocates from 78 schools met in Phoenix for the first CSO statewide cabinet meeting. The session was held at Honeywell’s Deer Valley hangar and included teachers, mentors, industry leaders and Honeywell employees. A special town hall session was conducted with Dawn Wallace, Education Policy Advisor for Governor Ducey.  All participants focused on contributing to a day of learning, idea sharing and hands-on activities.

The students were in awe of the innovative Honeywell technology they saw up close, including a jet engine, auxiliary power unit, 3-D printer, virtual reality demos, satellite communications equipment and cockpit simulators. They spoke to Honeywell engineers, toured a Pilatus aircraft and visited with a test pilot about the technology Honeywell produces to keep air passengers safe and comfortable as they travel. 

HHS TeamThe result? Participants expressed it best:

  • Cody, a student from Cactus High School in Peoria, said, “I thought the meeting was very enjoyable and a good opportunity to discuss some of the issues regarding STEM in schools. The challenge my group chose to solve was keeping CSOs active and engaged in the program. We chose this because if students aren't participating, they won't be able to effectively assist in the creation and execution of plans to increase STEM awareness.  I learned that people in charge of Arizona’s education actually do care about making the program effective.”
  • Reeti, a student at Basha High School in Chandler, said, “At the town hall session we created an illustration that demonstrated the important roles students, community members, parents, schools and industry play in inspiring students to explore STEM careers. As CSOs, we would love to see a stronger connection between industry and the rest of the community, including the student population and schools. With a closer connection, students and parents will be able to be more aware of available internships and job-shadowing opportunities with local companies that can help launch professional careers.”
  • Juan, a senior at Metro Tech High School in Phoenix, said, “I decided to participate because it was a unique program that had the support of many impressive thought-leaders in STEM fields and a clear vision of its goals. I would encourage future CSOs not to be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Trial and error is part of the learning experience.”
  • Reece, a student at Sonoran Trails Middle School in Cave Creek, said,I had a very good time! It was really good to meet with other CSOs and discuss what they are doing to impact STEM education in their schools. I enjoyed talking to the engineers of Honeywell, listening to their stories and explanations of technology. The town hall session also taught me that there are many angles you can use to approach a problem.”
  • Scout, a student at Trivium Prep in Goodyear, said,It was great to have our voices heard. Kids were able to express the need for technology and STEM education in their schools.”
  • Ruchi, a senior at Basha High School in Chandler, said, “I plan to pursue a career in cyber technology but sometimes being a girl in a STEM field can be challenging. The CSO program helped me learn to express my ideas and myself. I would encourage all girls pursuing this kind of education to speak up, be strong and make sure you get your ideas heard. Programs like the CSO are helping pave the way for girls interested in STEM.”
Tammy Wolfe

Tammy Wolfe

Tammy Wolfe is a Communications and Community Relations Senior Manager at Honeywell Aerospace.

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