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Middle and High Schoolers Explore STEM

Students from throughout San Diego County learned about science and technology fields last Friday.

Middle and High Schoolers Explore STEM

SDSU student volunteers greet middle school students as they enter Peterson Gym for the (STEM)2 Exploration Day event.
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SDSU student volunteers greet middle school students as they enter Peterson Gym for the (STEM)2 Exploration Day event.
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Ask a friend what “STEM” means and you may get a blank stare. But, as soon as Cynthia Park, executive director of the SDSU Pre-College Institute asked last Friday, dozens of young people immediately answered.

Training the future workforce

STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, encompasses increasingly in-demand fields and industries, said Ariane Grubb, coordinator of service learning for the institute.

“The future of our country and the future of our world is based on new innovations in technology, engineering and sciences,” Grubb said.

“One of the main goals of (STEM)2 Exploration Day is to get students interested and excited about STEM and to give these students exposure to academic and career pathways. Bringing middle and high school students onto campus and having them participate in hands-on activities in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics fields is the first step to sparking that interest.”

Thanks to funding from the President’s Leadership Fund, the Pre-College Institute brought about 300 students from middle and high schools in the San Diego Unified and Sweetwater Union High School Districts. All participating students are either part of the Sweetwater Compact for Success or College Avenue Compact which are programs to assist students with entry into San Diego State University. While the Pre-College Institute has brought individual schools to SDSU for visits this was the first to focus on STEM fields while hosting such a large group.

STEM Exploration Day

The event, dubbed (STEM)2 Exploration Day, allowed students to explore careers in STEM disciplines and meet current undergraduate and graduate students.

As part of the event, the diverse group of students learned about STEM careers and the academic commitment needed to succeed in STEM fields. Several workshops were held, including:

  • "Sense-able Smells," an introduction to organic chemistry and the chemistry of smells hosted by keynote speaker and UCSD graduate student Andro Rios
  • "Gimme the Dirt on Mission Bay," a presentation on sediment research in Mission Bay presented by students from Mission Bay High School
  • "Toxic Soup," featuring Pacific Ocean garbage patch research by Chelsea Rochman, a PhD candidate in the SDSU-University of California Davis marine ecology joint-doctoral program
  • "Don’t Tread on Me," a presentation by Matthew Barbour, an SDSU PhD student studying rattlesnake biology

Students also visited several campus labs, including the SDSU Immersive Visualization Center, Sharp Simulation Lab and the SDSU Planetarium.

Participating schools included:

  • Wilson Middle School
  • Clark Middle School
  • Hoover High School
  • Castle Park High School
  • Chula Vista High School
  • Montgomery Middle School
  • Mar Vista High School
  • Sweetwater High School
  • Crawford High Educational Complex
  • O’ Farrell Community School

Other groups that helped make this event possible include:


About the SDSU Pre-College Institute

Part of the SDSU College of Education, the Pre-College Institute encompasses several federally funded college-readiness programs designed to serve underrepresented students in low-income neighborhoods. Pre-College Institute programs include Upward Bound, GEAR UP and Talent Search. All Pre-College Institute programs are designed to:

  • Help youth prepare for college
  • Focus on developing college survival skills
  • Raise career awareness through a variety of activities
  • Provide local events that enrich the minds and souls of students

For more information on the Pre-College Institute, visit the website.

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