A Student's Perspective of the 2018 CA STEAM Symposium

  • My Experience at the 2018 California STEAM Symposium


    It is October 2018, and I am lucky enough to attend the California Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Symposium once again. I expect this conference to be full of exciting and innovative technologies designed to capture the eyes of the teachers and the hearts of their students.


    The day began with the keynote, consisting of Gillian Bohrer, Zoanne Clack, Barbara Nance, and Nazrin Choudhury. This fascinating group spoke about STEAM in Hollywood and breaking down the stereotype of scientists for millions of households across the nation. They are doing their best to change the classic image of the old, crazy-haired man in a disheveled lab coat to a diverse group of professional, educated humans collaborating together.


    All of these women turned their STEAM backgrounds toward the entertainment industry to disseminate knowledge to millions of individuals, and attempt to change the nation’s perspective on careers in science through this uniquely powerful medium. These women do their best to use television and movies as a positive force for change and to encourage America’s youth to pursue careers in STEM fields.


    After this engrossing panel, I made a beeline straight to the exhibit hall. Booths across the floor showed off various curriculums, learning styles, and classroom kits. Programs like Cubelets, Project Lead the Way, littleBits, and Klein Educational Systems impressed me with their programs designed to teach engineering to students of all ages. Meanwhile, ST Math and Get More Math both showed off their educational math software. Personally, the most interesting booths were those showcasing methods to introduce engineering to young children; I believe this exposure is key for children to find STEM passion early in life.


    I was exposed to STEM early and it shaped my life; early introduction can allow other students this same privilege. Every booth showcased some amazing tool or product designed to pique and hold the interest of students in order to maximize learning. I would love to see some of these implemented at my own school!


    As I cased the showroom floor, I came across the Makerspace. This expanse was dedicated to hands-on learning experiences for the teachers. Symposium volunteers walked the teachers through various projects, including battery-powered, popsicle-stick cars, basic alligator-clip circuitry, and a fish-stuffed animal. I watched teachers create a popsicle-stick car out of foam, glue, sticks, motors, batteries, and hot glue, and test them on the sandy, rocky test track. Other teachers created fish-stuffed animals out of gloves and buttons as they discussed the positive aspects of hands-on learning.


    These types of activities engage students far more than traditional speech and preach. If elementary teachers incorporated more of these creative, low-stress activities, not only would class be more entertaining and engaging, but also young children would be exposed to STEAM early on!


    To finish off my day, I attended the second keynote speaker: Lera Boroditsky, an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego, spoke about the impact of language on our everyday lives. Before her presentation, it never occured to me how much we rely on basic components of communication such as number words and simple nouns. Furthermore, I was enlightened by the connotation that every word can often suggest additional context shaped by our view of the world. Every language has its own culture and allows communication through its unique historical lens.


    If I have the opportunity to attend this symposium again, I hope I will have time to attend some of the breakout sessions; unfortunately, my junior-year homework load quashed all hope of any breakouts.


    Despite only attending day one of the Symposium, the passion of all the teachers who roamed the convention floor made it crystal clear how much California STEAM teachers care for their students. This convention was a wonderful way to expose the teachers of California to new STEAM educational tools, so they can broaden the minds of future generations.

            -11th Grade STEM Student