Students check out an art in STEM exhibit during the third annual STEM Exploration Night on March 27 at Federal Way High School. Photo courtesy of Federal Way Public Schools

Students check out an art in STEM exhibit during the third annual STEM Exploration Night on March 27 at Federal Way High School. Photo courtesy of Federal Way Public Schools

STEM Exploration Night connects thousands with career pathways and hands-on activities

Washington state ranks No. 1 nationally in the concentration of STEM-related jobs.

Over 2,750 Federal Way Public Schools students, families and community members packed Federal Way High School during the third annual STEM Exploration Night on March 27. This event aimed to inspire scholars with career pathways in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and the arts.

“We’re excited about all of the opportunities our scholars had to interact with leaders of industry in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Dr. Tammy Campbell, FWPS superintendent, in a press release. “We know the Seattle area has so many job opportunities that we want our scholars here in Federal Way to take advantage of. This STEM Expo experience can make a big difference for scholars’ futures.”

The first 500 attendees received a free STEM Exploration Night tote bag with a Rubik’s cube inside. Scholars and families visited with more than 90 booths and learned about STEM college and career opportunities in the region. Booth participants included Boeing, Microsoft, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, St. Francis Hospital, University of Washington Tacoma, Highline College and multiple trade and apprenticeship programs.

Washington state ranks No. 1 nationally in the concentration of STEM-related jobs and 70% of the high-demand, family-wage careers will require a postsecondary credential by 2030, according to FWPS.

“I’m really excited going around looking at all booths and all of the different STEM opportunities that Federal Way Public Schools has to offer,” said Luke, a 12th grade scholar from Thomas Jefferson High School.

Research shows by the time a scholar is in fifth or sixth grade, many have made a decision about their interest/ability to hold a STEM job. The booths allowed scholars a chance to interact with professionals in the various fields and ask questions about career paths, something that is valuable for scholars to explore about as early as the elementary years.

“This event could inspire people to do things when they grow up and have an idea of what to do,” said Joshua, a sixth grader from Sequoyah Middle School.

This year’s theme focused on Everyday STEM, or STEM experiences and activities that occur in everyday life such as creating a prototype using a 3D printer, and touring a fire truck or hybrid vehicle. Scholars also participated in a math competition, where scholars could test their math skills in a group.

New this year was the STEM Exploration Night Film Festival, which premiered scholar produced films about everyday STEM. Films focused on topics from an advertisement for an internet browser to a public service announcement.

“It was the most exciting night ever,” said Adelyn, a Woodmont K–8 fifth grade student, about having her film shown to the audience. She also encouraged other students to submit films at next year’s festival.

Attendees participated in Sphero golf courses, a hack-a-thon computer coding challenge, a chess tournament and Microsoft experience rooms.

Another highlight was the Diversity in STEM panel, which gave scholars the opportunity to hear from STEM professionals from various organizations. Panelists included Microsoft Xbox senior program manager Sarah Potter, FWPS computer science educator Sean Moore, Washington State Department of Labor and Industry information technology specialist Ricardo del Bosque, Key Tech Laboratories operations manager Andrew Powers, Microsoft software engineer Vivian Liao, Amazon Web Services security manager Shaude’ Moore and FWPS data integration specialist Jason Sammis.

“My favorite thing tonight has been seeing a lot of people that are different colors and I like that because it shows that they look like me,” said Sofia, a Woodmont K–8 fourth grade student. “Seeing someone that looks like me gives me a better hope of doing what I want to do in the future.”

Mayela, an 11th grader from Thomas Jefferson High School, shared her belief that STEM has the power to bring together the world. She said, “STEM communicates throughout everything. It’s not like reading different languages and speaking different languages, it’s more like speaking one language which may be code, it may be speaking wiring stuff. It’s just really universal.”

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