Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Together they form STEM, a phrase that is heard more and more in schools and businesses across the country – and with good reason. STEM is in high demand.

“Some of the best jobs in terms of salary and benefits can be found within the STEM fields,” said Dr. Jane Bradley, vice president of academic affairs at Hawkeye Community College. “Iowa has thousands of jobs that require STEM-related skills, but many of these great jobs go unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants.” 

Girls Exploring Trades and Technology (GETT) Camp Hawkeye hosted 18 eighth grade girls from Jesup Middle School at the Girls Exploring Trades and Technology (GETT) Camp on April 8, 2016. They worked with students in the Sustainable Construction and Design program to build picnic benches.

Hawkeye’s career and technical programs have filled STEM-related needs in the community for 50 years. The college was founded as Hawkeye Institute of Technology in 1966, focused on training skilled workers to fill jobs in the local economy. Hawkeye’s first mission was, “Teach for the future.” It’s a mantra that is still relevant, especially as Hawkeye’s STEM programming looks to engage younger students to get excited about the careers of tomorrow. 

“Hawkeye is working with our K-12 partners to support the Governor’s STEM Initiative to increase the interest in STEM careers among our young people,” Dr. Bradley said. “We want to provide clear educational pathways that lead to these careers.” 

One way the college is achieving this is through the STEM mobile learning lab visiting school districts across Hawkeye’s 10-county region.

Project Lead the Way Showcase Waverly-Shell Rock High School students Ethan Dunn and Sanah Munir received the top prize at the Project Lead the Way Showcase held on May 10, 2016, at Hawkeye Community College. They were among more than 40 middle school and high school students from Waverly-Shell Rock and Cedar Falls school districts who participated in this annual exhibition of STEM projects.

The lab includes Zspace virtual reality technology through which students explore human anatomy, botany, zoology, earth science, microbiology, chemistry, engineering, and paleontology. Students use 3D glasses and a stylus to navigate the layers of the earth, or feel the beat of a human heart. 

The lab is also outfitted with BodyViz, a 3D MRI visualization software allowing students to explore the human body through the use of an Xbox 360 controller. There are also 3D printers available to print models of subjects being studied, or objects designed by students using engineering software. 

“The mobile learning lab helps dispel students’ fears and build their capacity to master STEM concepts,” said Jill Dobson, Hawkeye’s STEM coordinator. During the 2015-2016 school year, more than 2,000 students utilized the lab, with more events and school visits planned for 2016-2017.

“Through this outreach we are beginning to develop the talents and skillsets that will be crucial to tomorrow’s workforce,” Dr. Bradley said. “We can build the pipeline of employees for the future of our communities and our state.” 

Jason Staker