On July 27, area business leaders and state and federal representatives joined County officials to hear from 54 students about their experiences in the 2017 Step Up and Reach for the Stars STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) summer program.
“This is economic development at work,” Worcester County Economic Development (WCED) Director Merry Mears said. “Today, it is so successful we cannot meet the demand from additional STEM businesses interested in working with our students.”
This rigorous program originated as a partnership between WCED and NASA. But it reached a pivotal point in 2013, when the federal government cut its share of the 50/50 cost split between the two agencies.
“Instead of scrapping a program that provides experience and career development that inspires our youth to pursue STEM careers locally, we enlisted the aid of Maryland-certified educators Fawn and Ryan Mete,” Commission President Bunting said. “Together, we looped in with community businesses and kept the program alive.”
Since joining the program, Fawn Mete, who directs the Red Doors Community Center at St. Paul’s By the Sea, has connected 239 county students with STEM-related county businesses, creating hands-on experiences and establishing relationships that encourage youth to pursue STEM-related career opportunities here after completing their education.
This three-part program serves county youth. STEM camp serves students in grades 6-8. The professional development leadership cohort serves students in grades 9-11. The prestigious internship program serves students in grades 11-12 or attending a university and majoring in a STEM field.
“STEM Camp is the first step in our three-component program connecting middle schoolers with STEM employers,” Mete said. “Our goal is to connect them early and often with employment opportunities throughout their education on to college.”
Over the summer, campers learned valuable skills, such as computer programming at Red Doors, designing, building, and testing underwater robots with Team Titanium Wrecks, and using a flight simulator at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Science and Aviation School. Cohort students developed soft skills and strategies to help them pursue successful careers and businesses within STEM fields.
Student interns put their education to work in the field with area STEM business. Asia Mason, a biological sciences major at the University of Maryland College Park, interned with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, where she conducted water quality samplings, assisted with hands-on educational activities, and helped determine the status of diamondback terrapins in the Coastal Bays.
Matt Johnson, a math and computer science major at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, interned with Hardwire, LLC and helped develop door armor kits for vehicles. “I used these tools (hydraulic press and a mold) to press steel plates into shapes…” Johnson said. “I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to see the mechanical engineering field at work.”
The Worcester County Commissioners extend thanks to program partners Hardwire LLC, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Sentinel Robotics Solutions, Ricca Chemical, State Ventures LLC, Electronic Transaction Systems, Studio Codeworks, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Dolle’s Candyland, University of Maryland Eastern Shore Aviation Science and Engineering, Midway Toyota, Team Titanium Wrecks, Tri-County Council for the Lower Eastern Shore, Rural Maryland Council, Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund, Orbital ATK, Dr. Rider of Peninsula Cardiology Associates, Red Doors Community Center, and Sinepuxent Educational Consulting.