Santa Maria kids learning about STEM-related careers with hands-on activities

STEM Industry Days taking place this week

Santa Maria kids learning about STEM-related careers with hands-on activities

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - More than 200 Santa Maria kids are getting a chance this week to learn about STEM-related careers.

On Wednesday, the two-day long STEM Industry Days of Northern Santa Barbara County kicked off at Robert Bruce Elementary School.

"This is to get kids excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)," said Santa Maria-Bonita School District teacher Kristin Halter. "And to get them excited about the types of jobs that are here in the Santa Maria Valley, to see the ag business, the potential for them, the engineering jobs, the technology jobs that are out there, how important math and science are for them and to get them excited about those things."

The event is held by EconAlliance, a non-profit organization that helps support local business activities. 

Now in its third year, STEM Industry Days allows kids from 5th through 8th grade, the opportunity to learn about careers through hands-on demonstrations and tours with local business professionals.

"Show kids what we do every day," said presenter Tom Rockwell, an electrical engineer with Atlas Copco. "We show them what our jobs look like, something that you don't get to see, see someone's day-to-day or see a little piece of someone's job is a nice preview in choosing a career."

On Wednesday, about 100 kids in 7th and 8th grade participated in the event, while kids in 5th and 6th grade will take part on Thursday.

"I learned a lot about mechanics, technology and things like that," said student Fernando Arias. "It's helped me decide what I want to do as a job when I grow up. I want to do something that has to do with technology."

"We learned about oil," said student Sebastian Salinas. "We learned about farming. We learned about pressure and air, oxygen and stuff. It was pretty cool."

A key element to the program is to expose kids to industries that are available in their hometown.

"That's our idea is to open the door to all the different kinds of industries and we have so many diverse ones here," said Halter. 

Another important part of the event are the off-campus tours that take the students out into some of the presenting businesses. 

Some of the places kids are visiting includes Safran, Allan Hancock College, Atlas Copco and the Santa Maria Public Library.

"You don't see a lot of the industrial side of the STEM careers without going on a tour or meeting someone that does it, so having any opportunity to see this stuff, even for a little bit is a big advantage," Rockwell said.

STEM Industry Days has taken place in Santa Maria the prior two years.

Recently, EconAlliance held the event in Lompoc for the first time.

There are also plans to have one in the Santa Ynez Valley in the future.

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