An Interview with 2018 Science Fair Winner Kabir Jolly

We interviewed 2018 Science & Engineering Fair of Houston Winner Kabir Jolly, and he answered some of our questions about how he came to like STEM:

CEEF: Tell us a little about yourself (your name, age, grade level or job title/description, etc). Also share your favorite thing about STEM (why do you like it?).

KJ: My name is Kabir Jolly. I am 16 and a sophomore at The Academy of Science and Technology. My favorite thing about STEM is the multitude of solvable challenges that lie within this field. It gives people an opportunity to practice and strengthen their problem solving skills to overcome any obstacles.

CEEF: How old were you when you realized you were interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)?

KJ: I have been interested in STEM ever since I was around 10 years old in 4th grade.

CEEF: What would you say to a young student who doesn’t like STEM?

KJ: I would tell them to keep exploring STEM. Since they are young, they have not been exposed to the numerous facets of this field. I encourage them to keep looking because there is a part of STEM for everyone.

CEEF: Did you have any teacher(s) who mentored you or inspired you to pursue STEM?

KJ: My elementary school teacher, Mrs. Brock, was very influential in inspiring me to pursue STEM. The engaging activities and experiments that left our 3rd grade class in awe played a big factor in my continued interest. In the past 2 years, my school’s headmaster, Dr. Caffery, has been very influential as well. She provides a lot of support and feedback, which has been invaluable for science fairs, and motivating for continuing STEM in college and beyond.

CEEF: What are you currently working on that involves STEM?

KJ: My science fair project that tackles the food waste problem using an app-based service is something that I am working on that involves STEM. It actually includes every aspect of the acronym: I conducted intensive research about the problem (science), I used databases and simulations to increase functionalities of my project (technology), I programmed and developed an application (engineering), and I used math to optimize user time and payments (mathematics).

CEEF: What have been some of your biggest challenges in your academic pursuits? What have you done to overcome them?

KJ: For the most part, I have enjoyed my academic pursuits. However, one big challenge I am currently facing is deciding between fields of interest or potential career parths when I enjoy both equally. Although it is definitely early to make a decision like this, I want to focus more time on one area. My plan to overcome this is to explore both a little, because I do not want to limit myself to one area. Once I understand all the aspects I can potentially dive into in each of these areas, I will be able to make an informed decision.

CEEF: Where do you see yourself in 10 years (and even in 20 years)? What path do you plan to take in order to accomplish those goals?

KJ: In the future, I hope to combine my fields of interest to start a successful business that uses software or an invention as an integral part of the company. I plan to learn a lot in entrepreneurship, as well as engineering/computer science to be able to accomplish these goals.

CEEF: How could you help others to get involved in STEM?

KJ: Helping others get involved in STEM, in my opinion can be done through a lot of outreach. Whether it is altering curriculum at schools, or holding events similar to Energy Day, I feel that making people (especially young children) aware of the fun behind STEM is integral to getting them involved in this area.

We look forward to keeping up with Kabir as he pursues his interests in STEM!

Training & Professional Development for STEM Teachers

Occupations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related fields are some of the fastest growing and best paid in the world. The STEM workforce is broad and complex, and it touches every aspect of our economy. Even many non-STEM jobs require technical proficiency, such as basic software skills. With the growing need for these skills in both technical and non-technical occupations, it is more important now than ever to ensure that students are properly prepared to succeed in these fields. One of the most important components of students’ success in these subjects is high-quality science and math teachers, but finding, recruiting, and retaining these teachers is one of the greatest challenges our nation faces today.

Most people can recall at least one teacher who was able to motivate students and build interest in a subject. This usually requires a teacher who challenges the class to use critical thinking and is able to relate the concepts of the lesson to real world experiences. Such high-quality teaching can have lasting effects on students. Educators who are able to provide a solid STEM foundation through well-rounded curriculum and engaging classroom activities may help spark an interest in STEM at an early age that can last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, there is an extreme lack of trained and qualified science and math teachers in the U.S. It is estimated that over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years. Of the active teachers, roughly 30 percent of chemistry and physics teachers in public high schools did not major in these fields and have not earned a certificate to teach those subjects, and more than two thirds of middle school math teachers are not qualified to teach the subject. If a teacher lacks the knowledge and capabilities required to teach a subject, it can be difficult for students to understand the concept, likely resulting in a loss of confidence and interest in that field.

State and federal policymakers have made efforts in recent years to create programs that help recruit and prepare effective STEM teachers, but this is a challenging undertaking. President Obama’s 100Kin10 coalition unites the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers within the decade. Already, more than 150 foundations, companies, and others have come together to lead 100Kin10, raising over $30 million, but there is still a long way to go, and a successful program demands that leaders from every sector take action and spread the word.

Additionally, state legislators such as Rep. Dwayne Bohac and Rep. Bobby Guerra of Texas have introduced bills recognizing the importance of certification and professional development for public school teachers, but these programs need to extend beyond the subject of computer science to provide training, professional development, and mentorships in all STEM fields.

Elected officials, business leaders, and educators must continue working together to provide STEM teachers and prospective teachers with the tools they need to successfully teach STEM subjects and motivate students to follow career paths in these fields. Students need teachers who are capable and knowledgeable, so it is critical that we work together to create programs that attract, train, and retain talented math and science teachers. If we are able to improve the quality of STEM education in the U.S., our students will be better prepared for the workforce, and the ability of the U.S. to compete in a 21st Century technology-intensive, global economy will be strengthened.

Written by Kathleen van Keppel

STEM Summit

STEM summit meant to stimulate student interest in science-oriented career paths

A line-up that included employment specialists, employers and educators analyzed the need to prepare America’s youth for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) during a March 20 summit conference hosted by the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association.

Participants learned that an abundance of STEM-related job openings — including those in the natural-gas industry — are not being filled due lack of workers with adequate STEM skills…read more