Monday, September 9, 2024
11:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Location Name
STEM: Stimulating Tomorrow's Engineering Mindset
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

The demand for careers in science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is drastically increasing. The number of jobs in STEM has grown 79% since 1990 and is expected to grow 10.8% between 2021 and 2031. STEM drives the economy and presents opportunity. To meet expected career demands, it is crucial that students are exposed to STEM education. Exposure to STEM teaches students practical skills that can be applied to numerous fields, such as critical thinking and innovation. Educators across the US are seeing a change in curriculum, with focus shifting to STEM. Still, only 20% of US high school graduates are prepared for college-level coursework in STEM majors. As professionals in the water industry, we offer a unique perspective to STEM, often different than educators. To further our practice, we have an obligation to expose students to STEM education. How can we, as water professionals, expose students to STEM education? The method of approach may vary by level of schooling. For instance, elementary students are more likely to learn from hands on demonstrations that mimic real-life scenarios, such as using a 3D watershed model to explain the concept of a watershed, whereas high school students are more likely to learn from applying their knowledge, such as developing a research project. Black, Latino, and women are all minorities in the STEM field. Studies show that stereotyping and a lack of role models are factors that prevent minorities from pursuing STEM careers. Creating an inclusive environment and introducing students to positive STEM role models, as early as elementary school, can fuel their interest and promote success. For most students, elementary school is the first-time students are exposed to STEM education. It is crucial to introduce elementary students to STEM concepts. Elementary students tend to learn best from hands on demonstrations that mimic real-life scenarios. For example, we often use a 3D tabletop model to demonstrate pollution moving throughout the watershed during a rain event. Middle school is prime time to introduce and implement the engineering design process. The engineering design process is a series of steps that guide students to solve problems while emphasizing open-ended problem solving and encouraging students to learn from failure. We have found that programs which allow students to utilize the engineering design process are great tools for middle schoolers. Specific programs, such as STEM Scouts or Future City, are programs which implement the engineering design process. Applying engineering concepts is crucial to STEM education for high school students. We have found that implementing research projects and competitions, such as WEF’s Stockholm Junior Water Prize, can inspire high school students to seek answers to engineering problems in the water sector. With the escalating demand for careers in STEM related fields, it is essential to prioritize STEM education to the next generation. Water professionals are key factors in this push, as they provide unique perspectives by working in the STEM sector. It is crucial for water professionals to engage students through hands-on demonstrations, STEM focused programs, and practical projects.