Oklahoma Baptist University welcomed more than 500 area high school students Oct. 6 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, industry partners and OBU students, highlighting OBU programs in nursing, creative writing, music, exercise science, physics, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, astronomy, math, computer science, meteorology, engineering, science and math education, graphic design, digital photography and other fields enhanced by STEM.
High school students from more than 20 schools attended the event.
“I am thankful for the atmosphere of service at OBU, where we are focused on giving back to our region with energizing activities such as STEM day,” said Dr. Contessa Edgar, chair of the OBU Division of Science. “Not every school district is able to provide equal STEM opportunities for their students, and we are motivated by the number and diversity of schools who responded to the opportunity.”
One of the day’s highlights included the launch of a weather balloon. This event was coordinated by Dr. Patrick Marsh an OBU visiting professor of natural science who is the chief of science and support for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman. OBU President Dr. Heath Thomas participated in the launch.
A special session was held for school sponsors to learn more about how their high schools can enter into a partnership with Project Lead the Way (PLTW).
“Partnering with Project Lead the Way for this event allowed OBU to advertise PLTW’s STEM-career focused high school curriculum to our area schools and to emphasize the scholarship opportunities and course credit opportunities OBU is providing to PLTW students,” Edgar said.
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 volunteers who made the day a success.
The event is a team effort with contributions made by dozens from within the OBU community. A large host of OBU science students served as guides and greeters to welcome guests. OBU staff from all across campus welcomed participants of STEM Day including support staff, faculty, admission counselors, marketing and administrators.
Response to the event was tremendous.
Butner High School math and STEM instructor Christy Findley, accompanied her students to STEM Day. She said, “We are from a smaller community. Activity days such as this are excellent opportunities for our students to broaden their perspective. They continue to see the value of math and science and how those academic areas open doors and serve as a strong foundation for jobs of the future.”
Marcus Petersen, an OBU senior physics major, was one of several physics students who took part in a demonstration for visiting students. He commented, “I love that we are able to expose high school students to academic areas of STEM. Hopefully, this can spark their interest in science and inspire them to continue learning more.”
Hannah Budde, chemistry and physics teacher at Carl Albert High School, said, “My students were excited for STEM Day and were looking forward to the hands-on opportunities for learning.”
Those hands-on experiences ranged from building models, chemistry experiments, carving fossils, exploring wind turbines, and more.
Dr. Susan DeMoss, Associate Headmaster at Christian Heritage Academy (CHA) and instructor of calculus and pre-calculus courses, accompanied three classes of CHA students to STEM Day. She commented, “We must continue to persevere as teachers to instill strong math principles into our students no matter the obstacles. Math is the language of the universe. It is a crucial core subject and is foundational to all other sciences. As we see today, a solid foundation in math is a basis for many future career paths.”
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. “While you can get a great job and earn a solid living with a STEM degree, I would rather you choose STEM because of your passion and creativity. Go into STEM because you want to make a difference. With STEM, you can change the world!”