On Nov. 21, high school students at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) in Rockville, Maryland, had a day dedicated to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), with speakers from different fields presenting on their work and its different applications.
Each student was assigned to three different sessions over the course of the day; they had reviewed the speaker list a few weeks earlier and shared their preferences, with the guarantee they’d be assigned to listen to at least one of the three they requested. Kara McCullough, a nuclear scientist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and former Miss USA pageant winner, gave the closing keynote speech to the entire gathering.
“I am hoping that this particular day pushed pause on students’ busy year and challenged students to think ‘Why am I spending all of this time learning this stuff?’” said Upper School STEM Coordinator Cassandra Batson. “One of my goals was to bridge the gap between what we do at [CES]JDS and the outside world.”
Sophomore Naama Ben Dor said she originally thought the STEM day was going to be boring and did not want to come to school, but her parents made her attend. Ben Dor found that she enjoyed listening to the speakers, such as FBI veteran and Department of Forensic Sciences Director Dr. Jenifer Smith.
“We only hear about people that have jobs [in STEM fields], but we don’t really hear from people who have them,” Ben Dor said. “It’s important to know what you want to get into in the future so that you can have a job that you like.”
Another speaker was CESJDS alumnus Kevin Lieberman (’08), currently a Ph.D. candidate in robotics at University of Michigan. Lieberman spoke to students about how engineers build human-machine systems like cars and airplanes and how subjects like art and psychology also play a role in designing systems.
As an alumnus, Lieberman thought that it was exciting and interesting to come back to the place where he learned math such as calculus and matrices. He said that at the time, these subjects did not seem important to him, but he now understands their real-world applications.
“I think it’s important to have opportunities where students can meet with engineers and people who use math and STEM skills in the real world,” Lieberman said. “By learning how people apply their STEM skills in different ways, you can see the different careers that exist and you can see the different ways that people make [a] change in the world.”
A longer version of this article originally appeared in the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) student publication The Lion’s Tale (“STEM day introduces students to jobs and field applications,” Nov. 21, 2018). The edited version above is printed here with permission.
By Oren Minsk
Oren Minsk is a CESJDS student and assistant in-depth editor for the student publication The Lion’s Tale.