Picture what you will what someone in the science, technology, engineering and math fields must be like – and understand that the Western New York STEM Hub looks to break open these fields to all.
"For a long time, people thought STEM meant only engineering jobs that required six years of college and $60,000 worth of post-collegiate debt, but more and more people are acknowledging that STEM jobs are so broad-based," said Cherie Messore, executive director of the regional hub, one of 10 statewide.
The hub works with about 800 individual partners representing roughly 300 different entities spanning Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The partners – representing science- and math-based business pros, nonprofit leaders and educators from all academic levels – volunteer time to teach those who want to follow in their footsteps.
To that end this summer, the hub will host two similar projects at SUNY Buffalo State. The first, the Girls Coding Project, is in its third year. It will take place weekdays from July 9 to 20 for girls in grades 6-12. The second, AT&T Coding Your Future, is new. It will run from from July 30 to Aug. 10, and is for immigrant teen girls. AT&T launched funding for both programs. The older program now is funded by GM Tonawanda Engine and the First Niagara Foundation in partnership with KeyBank.
Costs, applications and other information for both programs can be found at wnystem.org; scholarships are available.
Q: What's the hub's mission? It's more than nurturing engineers, right?
A: The common goal is to advance STEM learning to support our economy. We're always looking at both the current economy and the next generation workforce, and making sure the programs we do help prepare today's students to become tomorrow's innovators and leaders. …
You certainly want the carpenter who is building your house to have strong math skills. You want your bricklayer and anyone who's involved with construction and design to know math and know physics, and know the strength and durability of the materials they're using. A lot of these skilled trades and manufacturing jobs don't take six years of college. If you're a kid who loves technology and loves tinkering, this is the kind of profession that's going to pique your interest, build you a family-sustaining salary as the base of your career, and you're going to achieve this with a 15-month certificate program.
Q: Talk about the pair of project workshops.
A: Students use computer science or computer coding. They come in to the technology building at SUNY Buffalo State and students have an introduction to computer coding. They learn the basics of apps, storyboarding, animation and website design. The classes are taught by Computer Information System instructors from Buffalo State. They start with an informal conversation with the girls about their career pathways … It's a good way for the girls to have conversations with people working in the profession right now – and it gives them a chance to see themselves 15 years from now because they're talking to a female role model from a male-dominated profession.
Q: Do you have any tips for parents to keep kids spending meaningful time during the summer months?
A: I can't say enough about reading. Most libraries now have "Maker Spaces" where kids can tinker and putter, get used to making something with their hands and feel proud about their own creations. We certainly are big fans of those. That can be a first step toward a creative career choice and being part of the innovation society.
Certainly, finding programs likes the ones we offer at Western New York STEM are great. They occupy time for kids but also engage them in wanting to learn, wanting to keep their skills sharp and wanting to keep their curiosities heightened and directed to things that are not only going to benefit them next school year but also inspire a career option but a curiosity about our world and an interest in becoming innovators.
Learn more about the WNY STEM Hub, including summer camps run by some of its science- and math-related peer organizations, at wnystem.org/events/programs.