The importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies in secondary education was the focus of organizers and participants of the 55th annual Science and Engineering Fair of Houston on Thursday.
Bonnie Dunbar, director of the UH Aerospace Engineering program and the annual Science and Engineering Fair, stressed the need for STEM education in schools. She said the demand for engineers is so great that students in the Cullen College of Engineering receive approximately four job offers before graduation.
“There aren’t enough (scientists or engineers) to solve problems like water quality and sanitation,” Dunbar said. “We’re falling behind other nations. It’s very important.”
Educating high school students in STEM fields paves the way for innovation of technology in the nation, which in turn allots engineers more tools and methods with which to work. This is why science, technology, engineering and math are grouped together under the acronym STEM. They interrelate cohesively to progress the nation with new ideas.
Tiffany Loggins, a senior at Conroe High School’s Academy for Science and Health, created an experiment tanning fruit flies. The results convinced her, as well as many judges, of the dangers of using tanning beds frequently. Loggins, who has entered the fair since the seventh grade, said she has found a passion for scientific experimentation.
“Now, I just love doing it,” Loggins said. “I like to determine an experiment that I can find results for. I just love determining an experiment that I can find results for that no one else has found yet.”
Her drive to seek out unknown results will not be fruitless. Loggins said she plans to major in business administration at Texas A&M University so that when she creates a great product through her experiments, she can sell it, too.
“I want to be able to open my business and sell my own creations there that will help everyone else,” Loggins said.
Industrial engineering freshman Michael Alexander also participated in science fairs prior to attending UH. Keeping his mind active in experiments helped him figure out that he wanted to become an engineer.
“When I first did the science fair, I was in the third grade, and I remember it sparked my interest because in the process of a science experiment, you come up with a problem,” Alexander said. “When you have that question, you have to come up with a solution at the end. The whole point is to come up with a problem-solving method, and that is kind of what engineering is. I want to help solve the problems of my future society.”
Dunbar’s goal in directing the fair is that STEM education might have an impact on the youth of today. She hopes that endeavors like the annual Science and Engineering Fair in Houston will encourage young people to study STEM in an effort to improve our world.
“Undergraduate and graduate students can really help the quality of education by encouraging young students to study these (STEM fields),” Dunbar said.
She said she believes that STEM research fields have been taken for granted and wants to see that change in the upcoming generation.