Bellevue College ran a STEM career day on Jan. 26. The event was organized by the BC Science and Math Institute. SAMI organized the event because the LMC “BC Reads!” Committee chose Andy Weir’s novel “The Martian” as the common book of the 2016-17 school year because of its strong STEM themes.
During the event, Bellevue College students were able to connect with STEM professionals from various fields, ranging from video game developers to medical researchers. Representatives from Boeing, the University of Washington, Nordstrom, Bungie and the Benaroya Research Institute were all in attendance at the event. Professionals were recruited to attend the event though SAMI’s partnership with the Puget Sound Engineering council, science fair judge list, and through personal contacts of the SAMI leadership.
“STEM Careers Day took its format from our partnership with the Puget Sound Engineering Council who hosts Engineering Mentor Nights in this area. We wanted to expand it to include more disciplines, so we invited folks from across STEM fields. However, engineers still have a prominent presence at today’s event. It’s an informal, drop-in setting where students can talk to several different professionals in a comfortable setting,” said Science Division Director Jennifer Pang.
Professionals advised students on continuing education, making industry connections in various STEM fields, engaging in volunteerism and working on personal projects relating to whatever STEM field one may be interested in. “Pursue your passions as well as leveling up practical skills. There are pretty major differences between an industrial engineer and a biomedical scientist, however a love of tackling challenges and solid critical thinking skills will always be useful, no matter the field.” Said Pang.
Bellevue College seeks to promote student interest in STEM. “There’s a big push for helping students get access to STEM careers, particularly in Washington state. That really needs to start with students knowing that a STEM field is where they want to be, where the jobs are, and what the jobs entail. Working a job is very different than attending class, so it’s important for students to ask people who are currently working for advice. Also, we are aiming to expand students’ professional networks with this event. We hope there are many meaningful connections that are made today,” added Pang.
Bungie employee and computer science entrepreneur Brian Chase attended the event. “I’m a services programmer. My day to day work involves keeping the game [Destiny] up and running, inventories, loading into to the game, architecture for signing into the game [and] making sure people cannot take it down.”
Chase gave suggestions for students interested in getting into the video game industry. “Having a portfolio of projects and games helps, and having other job experience makes a big difference. Internships in the computer science world are typically paid, and those are great ways to build a resume. Personal projects, school projects, anything you can talk knowledgably about makes a big difference when going into the computer science world,” Chase added.
Professionals came to the event for a variety of reasons, including gauging student interest in STEM fields.
“I wanted to see how the new generation was interested in the area that I work in. Civil engineering and public works are not that popular to work in, but it is very vital to the country and to infrastructure. If you want to build things that you see and that you live in, that’s the primary reason why I went in. Civil engineering is everything you live in, drive on, it’s what brings water to your home, it protects you from storms and floods. Everything you see around you falls under civil engineering,” said Shobuz Ikbal, civil engineer and project manager at Optima project management. Ikbal recommends students interested in civil engineering develop a strong math and physics background before taking engineering orientated classes.