OBU welcomed 140 area high school students April 8 for STEM Day on Bison Hill. The students participated in hands-on learning experiences throughout the day, exploring various STEM disciplines. STEM is a common acronym representing the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The day featured a mix of large group sessions and breakout sessions, led by University faculty members and highlighting OBU programs in nursing, journalism, communication, exercise science, physics, biology, chemistry, natural science, math, computer science and more. The high school students also enjoyed lunch among the college students in the Café on the Hill.
Dr. Cherith Tucker, chair of mathematics and associate professor of mathematics, taught a session exploring Mobius strips, with hands-on experiences for the students. Dr Nathan Drake, associate professor of mathematics, led a session on the mathematics of population dynamics, showing how math is fun in real world applications. Dr. Meredith Bailey, assistant professor of exercise science, sports and recreation, taught a hands-on session on exercise science, demonstrating how the human body moves and stays in motion utilizing physics and physiology. Jaime Brantley, assistant professor of nursing, taught about some of the science and technology necessary to provide nursing care to patients.
Benjamin Baxter, chair of communication arts and assistant professor of animation and media production, taught students the basics of shooting photography in a photo studio, including photography lighting and digital photo editing. Dr. Timothy Darr, assistant professor of computer science, led a session where students participated in interactive demonstrations on software development.
Dr. Chris Jones, professor of chemistry and director of STEM innovation, taught a session on chemistry and physics, where students conducted hands-on experiments related to both fields. Annie Keehn, assistant professor of natural science, led an environmental science breakout session where students learned about the environment through hands-on experiments. Dr. Nathan Malmberg, chair of science and associate professor of chemistry, taught a biochemistry lesson where students experimented to determine how much protein is in a milkshake.
High school students attended the event from Choctaw High School, Dove Science Academy, Gordon Cooper Technology Center, Holdenville High School, Liberty Academy, Meeker High School, Moore High School, Prague High School, Tecumseh High School, Wayne High School and Wewoka High School. The event was originally scheduled for Feb. 25 but was postponed to April 8 due to winter weather in late February. Before the postponement, more than 350 students from these and additional schools were originally registered to attend.
Dr. Chris Jones, professor of chemistry and director of STEM innovation, was excited not only for the enthusiasm of the high school students, but also for the passion and dedication of the many OBU students who volunteered to make the day a success, some of whom helped prepare the hands-on activities for the event.
“This event could not have been a success without the involvement of OBU students,” Jones said. “In many of the breakout sessions, our students assisted with STEM activities. The students shared their enthusiasm and knowledge with those in attendance.”
Dr. Larinee Dennis, dean of business, health science and education, was extremely pleased with how the event came together and noted that the idea was originally birthed out of a conversation with a faculty member.
“The idea [for STEM Day] came when I was visiting with the chair of the math division [Dr. Cherith Tucker] about how to engage prospective students who might be interested in math. She talked about hosting a math day and then I expanded the idea to include additional STEM-related fields.” Based on the positive experience both for visiting students and for the OBU community, Dennis hopes to make STEM Day an annual event.
When Dennis first shared this idea with other faculty, Jones became excited, sharing about successes he previously experienced hosting similar events at other universities. Dennis then pulled the necessary stakeholders together to formulate a detailed plan with deadlines for each segment. The event became a team effort with contributions made by dozens from within the OBU community.
Jones encouraged prospective students interested in STEM fields, as well as their families, to come to OBU.
“Prospective students and their parents should consider coming to OBU for a STEM degree if they want to do more than just get a job after they graduate,” he said. “STEM degrees at OBU are designed to engage students with passion, challenge them to become more than they expect and prepare them to be future shapers for the world we live in.
“These degrees are not easy. Our professors have high expectations. However, the professors will stand by their students’ side every step of the way. Faith and learning are integrated in all courses with both academic and biblical integrity. OBU has a rich history of equipping graduates with all they need to make a difference, whether they are becoming doctors and nurses, conducting biomedical research, and or even assisting NASA.” For students earning STEM-related degrees from OBU, the sky is truly the limit.