Fort McCoy News April 8, 2016

IMCOM grant helps CYSS start STEM Career Club

BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

A new career club that allows middle- and high-school students hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs has been formed at Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS).

School-Age Center/Youth Center (SAC/YC) staff members Dustin Lakowske and Megan Browning and Director Cori Yahnke led the planning effort. Planning for the STEM Career Club began in fall 2015 after Installation Management Command awarded Fort McCoy CYSS a $10,000 STEM grant.

"Every month, we're trying to hit a career within the STEM focus," Browning said.

Photo: Members of the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Career Club complete a project with personnel from the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) March 25 in building 2171.
Members of the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math Career Club complete a project with
personnel from the Directorate of Public Works March 25 in building 2171.

Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Staff members first conduct activities at SAC/YC focused on career fields. Later in the month, students get the chance to listen to a guest speaker or visit a work center related to a featured career field.

In January, for example, students held a pine-car derby and later visited the Automotive Skills Center on post.

Staff members showed students how to check a vehicle's oil and tire pressure and change the oil.

In February, the focus was on dentistry because February is National Dental Health Month, Browning said. "The kids got to do an experiment where they figured out how much sugar is in different drinks."

"So if (the bottle) says there's 14 grams of sugar, they weighed out 14 grams and then poured it into that empty bottle so they can visually see this is how much sugar (they) drank," Yahnke said.

A guest speaker from Scenic Bluffs Community Health Centers visited and told the teens about careers available in the dental field and the level of education needed for each.

The teens visited the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) in March. DPW team members discussed engineering specialties — such as civil, mechanical, and electrical — and what classes the teens should take in high school if they want to focus on the STEM fields.

The DPW team members then worked with the teens to create four projects: paper penny bridges, edible concrete, bouncy balls, and cornstarch ooze.

Fort McCoy Family member Nathaniel Witherow said his favorite was the cornstarch ooze, but the paper penny bridge taught him how to build a structure that won't collapse.

"We hope they learned that you can have fun with your job," said Liane Haun, chief of the DPW Master Planning Division. "You also have to work well with your team members — there are no bad ideas when you are brainstorming trying to solve a problem."

Family member Elissa Nott said she enjoyed the trip and thought the DPW team did a great job.

Photo:
Liane Haun with the Directorate of Public Works completes a project with a
youth who is a member of the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Career Club March 25 in
building 2171.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol; photo not in print edition

"The staff (members) were incredibly helpful and thoroughly explained all directions," she said.

Haun said the DPW team members enjoyed working with the teens.

"It's nice to take a break from the day-to-day life of the DPW and have some messy fun," she said. "It reminds us why we all thought a STEM career was something we wanted to do when we grew up."

Haun recommended that teens who are interested in STEM careers should job shadow someone in the field or visit a college to speak to students pursuing STEM degrees. "Sometimes the time spent going around in their workplace opens your eyes to different opportunities that you may not have known were available," she said.

The club's goal is to introduce the teens to a wide range of possible careers.

"Only one of our teenagers really knows what they want to do after high school, so we're trying to give them a broad spectrum of jobs and careers (to learn about) so that they'll hopefully find something that interests them," Lakowske said.

Staff members decided which career fields to highlight by researching what job opportunities are likely to be available to the students in the future.

"(We looked at) upcoming, in-demand jobs through 2025," Lakowske said. "It's not just what you want to do, but what will also give you an employment opportunity."

Some of the activities focus on careers the teens may not have considered before, Browning said. Medicine, meteorology, culinary arts, the military, psychology, construction, and financial planning are some of the themes being worked on for the remainder of the year.

"We're also trying to hit different levels (of education)," Browning said. "You don't necessarily have to go to school for six years."
Giving students an incentive to do better in school also is important, Yahnke said.

"If you say 'good grades are important,' that doesn't mean much," Yahnke said. "But you can say, 'If you want to be in gaming, you need to get into this college, and you have to have this GPA.'"

Photo:
Members of the Fort McCoy Child, Youth and School Services Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math Career Club complete a project with
personnel from the Directorate of Public Works March 25 in building 2171.

Photo by Scott T. Sturkol; photo not in print edition

During the summer, staff members plan to expand the program by running weeklong activities. They also are considering repeating some of the activities from earlier months for students who only attend in the summer.

The program's been popular with the students who have attended the first few months, although Yahnke said they're hoping more students will join future activities.

"It's been going really well," Yahnke said. "The kids like it; the parents like it."

"I think it's been fun, and it taught me a lot," Witherow said.

Nott said she especially enjoys learning about technology and engineering careers.

The program is open to sixth- through 12th-grade students who are eligible for CYSS. Students who do not regularly attend the After-School Program are welcome to join the activities but must register with CYSS first.

While the program is currently funded by the grant through the end of the year, Yahnke said the program could continue in the future if it's well-attended and well-received. If it continues, the club could expand beyond STEM fields, too.

May's focus will be on health fields. Students will visit the Fort McCoy Fire Department to speak with firefighters and first responders. Teens also will learn CPR.

For more information about the STEM Career Club, call the SAC/YC at 608-388-4373.