Water Festival educates students
HOUGHTON – Groups of high school students got a hands-on look at careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields during the Water Festival at Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center Thursday. Students engaged in different sessions focused on various fields related to the Great Lakes.
“We are trying to show them how diverse (the career options) are. Some may say ‘I don’t want to be a scientist and have to go out in a boat and collect samples,’ but there are many other ways they can do it,” said Joan Chadde, education program coordinator at Michigan Tech. “Hopefully that’s part of what their take-away is.”
Students from L’Anse, Chassell, Horizons, Jeffers, L.L. Wright from Ironwood and Lake Linden-Hubbell high schools participated. This is the second year of the program. Last year students from grades four through eight attended. The plan, Chadde said, is to switch every other year between younger and high school students.
Sessions included presentations on research, cleaning wastewater, building water towers and even social media and technology. Presenters included Michigan Tech faculty and students, community members and even one group of high school students presenting their work on Remotely Operated Vehicles to their peers. The students from the Marine Robotics class at Dollar Bay High School demonstrated how the ROVs allow users to see what is underwater.
“(The ROVs) go to Isle Royale during the summer so we just recently got them back,” said Meagan Kangas, a junior at Dollar Bay who is a member of the class. “They want to check the boats and docks for zebra mussels to make sure they’re not spreading but here we’re just putting them in to see what’s under there.”
The students operated the vehicles with a remote control and were able to see images gathered on each vehicle’s camera on a screen.
“They seem to enjoy driving them in the lake,” added Gavin Collette, a Dollar Bay sophomore in the class.
Mary Markham, a science teacher at Chassell High School, saw her students enjoying the hands-on presentation and getting a better appreciation of what they could during the ROV demonstration.
“There are kids on the robotics team (from Chassell) and they’re like, ‘Hey, we should do this!'” Markham said. “I think it opens up their minds a little more. One student was just saying that this is complicated, but it is the whole engineering process because it is not going to work right away – you have to work as a team, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes and problem solve.”
Even though not every student in attendance will go into a STEM field, the Water Festival also focuses on everyday stewardship.
“Part of our mission is to get all students aware of the STEM fields – STEM being science, technology, engineering and math. That’s one reason for the programming and Great Lakes stewardship is another one by having them better understand where they live and Lake Superior and the waterways,” Chadde said. “So if they better understand where they live and appreciate it more they are more likely in their personal lives to do what’s necessary to care for it. Then some of them may become motivated and want to pursue careers associated with the Great Lakes.”