Improved solar cells, nanotechnology and computer codes were just a few of the nascent technologies high school students experimented with during the Governor’s School for Emerging Technologies held recently at Tennessee Tech University.
More than 50 students from across the state came to TTU this summer to learn about the technology of tomorrow and find out what it might be like to be a scientist or engineer after they graduate college. Each student received a few college credit hours for experimenting with electric currents, global geographic information systems, computer programming and other cutting-edge technologies.
“Everybody can take their experiments home and hopefully continue to experiment with them,” said Holly Stretz, professor in TTU’s chemical engineering department. “These are our students who are going to be our future engineers, so I want them to continue to work with these things.”
As demand for professionals in the science, technology, engineering and math fields continues to increase, educators are trying to find new and more exciting ways to entice middle and high school students to think about those kinds of careers. The Governor’s School for Emerging Technologies is just one of those ways at TTU.
“For most budding engineers, being able to do hands-on experiments is very exciting and it’s very motivating,” Stretz said. “This gives them the chance to feed their excitement and their passion.”
The students took classes with Stretz, Yvette Clark, a research and development engineer with the Center for Management, Utilization and Protection of Water Resources. Dale Wilson, professor of mechanical engineering, Jessica Matson, professor in civil engineering and basic engineering professor Ken Hunter spent several weeks working with the students. After a month of classes, they got to select smaller projects and work on them independently.
Though not every one of the students in the program has chosen a career in one of the STEM fields, some have found their calling.
“We want to be super heroes; we want to save the world,” said Mitchell Gordon, a junior at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn. “In grade school, they just say, ‘Oh, you want to be a scientist,’ but there are lots of different kinds of scientists. Now I know that I want to be an engineer.”