With the University of Jamestown on spring break the 440 seventh- and eighth-grade students from six area schools had the campus to themselves Thursday for the fifth Tech Savvy and STEMtastic workshops.

There were 36 workshops were taught by STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals working throughout the state of North Dakota, said Erica Althoff, an event committee member of the host, AAUW.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

"The goal of the day is to expose middle school students to STEM careers and to STEM fields," Althoff said. "It will hopefully boost their confidence that they have the ability to participate and do anything that they can related to science, math, technology and engineering."

Participating schools included Jamestown Middle School and Hillcrest Seventh-day Adventist School, and Medina, Litchfield-Marion, Pingree-Buchanan and Montpelier school districts.

"I think it's pretty fun," said Kelsey Vandeberghe, eighth-grader from Medina Public School. "You get to learn about a lot of different things and careers and experience different things you probably wouldn't have known that was out there."

Pingree-Buchanan students Riley Widman and Tyra Kamoni-Hatch said they enjoyed the Doctor for a Day workshop the most. A veterinarian taught them how to suture wounds, give injections and bandage a limb.

"I want to be a veterinarian," Kamoni-Hatch said.

Other workshops introduced the students to aerodynamics, pharmacy and medical, traffic engineering, building sewer and water systems, coding and programing, natural sciences, energy and electricity and financial literacy.

Jim Bear, principal of Montpelier School, said the event is extremely valuable, especially for girls, to show students more about STEM fields at an age where they think about what to do with their lives.

"They might have an idea of what they are going to do but it's great to have them exposed to different things now so that's where their mindset is," Bear said. "So, as they are planning for what they are going to do in the future we can help push them in the right direction and into positions they might not have considered."

AAUW invited Althoff to join the event committee as one of a few women engineers in Jamestown. She is an agricultural engineer who works for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and a graduate of North Dakota State University.

"I fell in love with the event and its purpose," Althoff said. "A few people over the years said this helped them pick a career they might not have considered."

Jill Schlenker, a volunteer, said she started her career as an information technology specialist. As a STEM and technology professional she said it is important to support the event.

"There aren't very many technology girls, or boys, in some of the emerging fields and I think it's great to get these kids excited and interested in these activities this way," Schlenker said.

A national AAUW grant helped to get the AAUW Tech Savvy event for middle school girls started, Althoff said. The Jamestown chapter started the STEMtastic event for the boys, she said.

"We try to have females teach to the girls to show women who are already working in these fields," Althoff said.

The planning for the 2020 event starts next week, Althoff said.

The event is sponsored by AAUW-Jamestown branch, Jamestown Public School District, University of Jamestown and the North Dakota STEM Network.