Children explore health care careers at UAA STEM Day
by Vicki Nechodomu |
After a two-year hiatus, UAA STEM Day returned to campus on October 1, drawing over 1,500 community members to the ConocoPhillips
Integrated Science Building to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,
commonly known as STEM. Attendees, primarily children, enjoyed activities, challenges,
demonstrations, tours, and planetarium shows that explored a wide range of STEM topics
from biology to robotics.
"All people are explorers, and that’s what STEM Is. To explore and to test our boundaries
as to what we’re doing in our lives and what we need in our lives," said Rachel Hannah,
associate professor of Biological Sciences and STEM day volunteer. "We come together
and think together and share our knowledge together."
Ian McCarthy, K-12 Education Coordinator for the Alaska Center for Rural Health and
Health Workforce, hosted a health care photo booth where participants used provided
props to dress up as health care professionals. “STEM day reminded me why I work for
University of Alaska Anchorage. It was inspiring to see future UAA students and their
families from all different backgrounds wandering from booth to booth to explore with
curiosity the world of STEM," said McCarthy. “Families and students were taking ownership
of their own education. They were teaching each other, asking thoughtful questions,
and engaging with hands-on materials and props.”
The Center for Human Development (CHD) hosted several activities that taught children
how to shape behavior. Rachel White, Capacity Building for Autism Interventions program
director, ran an activity in which one person had to get another person to perform
a secret action without telling them. “One thing that I really enjoyed was seeing it click for people that they could shape
the correct behavior by clicking the clicker when the other person touched the right
object or moved it in a certain way,” said White. “There were also really good conversations
among participants about how they could use this strategy to shape the behavior of
the people and animals they interacted with in their daily lives.”
Chris Sturm, clinical director of Effective Behavior Interventions, taught STEM Day
attendees how to shape the behavior of a digital rat in a computer simulation. “The high level of interest that some of the kids had was my favorite part,” said Sturm.
“Applied Behavior Analysis isn't typically viewed in the same light as other applied
fields like engineering and medicine. People were more curious about the applied science
of behavior than I was expecting.”
One particular image stayed with McCarthy. "One young girl wanted to dress up as a
doctor. She put on a lab coat that draped on the floor behind her, held up a stethoscope
in her hand, and smiled radiantly. She dreams of being a doctor. That day, she was
one. And some day, she may have the diploma to prove it. In that moment she was empowered
by her imagination.
STEM Day is hosted by the College of Arts and Science, the College of Engineering,
and the College of Health. Health faculty, staff, and students interested in participating
in STEM Day can contact Vicki Nechodomu, communications director for the College of Health.