The science of future careers

Jonathan Valley holds first STEM conference
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Apr 11, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Mark Etheridge with Haywood County Schools demonstrates a physical science using marshmallow peeps during the STEM Conference.

Robotics, dissecting cow eyes and constructing floating sailboats out of cardboard are just a few of the activities that were going on at Jonathan Valley Elementary School Monday.

A total of 18 visitors attended the first STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) conference at JVES to speak about their careers that involve STEM. Students were engaged in a variety of hands-on activities that got their minds thinking about future careers.

“We learned how to get water clean to drink it,” said second-grader Brooklyn Bragg after participating in a water filtering activity held by Neil Carpenter from the Maggie Valley Water Department.

“You have to filter it and then let it sit, and then it starts getting clean,” added second-grader Emma Watford.

Carla Billups, who recently won the Distinguished Service in Science Education – Elementary Award, organized the conference.

“It’s so important that the students learn about STEM,” Billups said. “We want them to see all the difference fields because not everyone is going to be a doctor or an engineer.”

Jim Falbo, an instructor of electrical engineering and technology at Haywood Community College, said it was important to teach children about different kinds of technology.

"I think it will be good to introduce kids to electronics at a young age — that's what got me started," Falbo said. "With the current technology and where it's going to go, they're going to be a big part of that."

Billups said she first heard about the conference while being involved with the North Carolina Science Leadership Association.

“I was always around people who were inspirational,” she said.  “They held a science conference, and I picked their brains about it and thought it would be good to have one here.”

The day was set up like a conference. Students were given a choice of sessions and they attended three of these sessions throughout the day. Each session was made up of about 15-20 students from grades second to fifth grade. The sessions lasted one hour each, and each presenter was asked to present three different sessions.

A broad range of local volunteers and state employees participated in the conference, giving students a sampling of everything from robotics to biotechnology to environmental science.

Participants included Mark Etheridge from Haywood County Schools, Maggie Radford from CH2M HILL, Dick Coltman from General Dynamics, Eric Romaniszyn from Haywood Waterways, Joshua Dayton from the N.C. Department of Transportation, Neil Carpenter from the Maggie Valley Water Department, Misty Lovin from MedWest Haywood, WC Godfrey from Pisgah High School, Steve Fraekly from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Jeff Mackey from the Maggie Valley Police Department, Summer Cortinas from N.C. Biotechnology, Dr. Kristel Causby from Mountain Eye Associates, Paul Monroe from the Asheville Fire Department, Caroline Stiles from the Balsam Animal Hospital, Katie Craig from Asheville Women in Technology, Emily Darling and Teresa Cowan from the Science House, Falbo and Carrie Keller from the Haywood County Beekeepers Association.