Laura Angle is someone who can truly call her self a “STEM Professional”. She is the Director of STEM Education Outreach & Volunteer Programs at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. In her role, she works to develop partnerships with educational institutions, sponsor organizations for Festival STEM participation, and organize K-12 STEM Outreach Events with Festival volunteers to promote the Festival.
Angle, who was a Botany major in college, spoke with WashingtonExec about how she got into education and STEM, the 2014 Festival, how kids can be encouraged to get into STEM, the future of STEM and its misconceptions, and more.
WashingtonExec: What is your background and how did you get involved in STEM?
Laura Angle: I earned a Bachelor of Science degree from UC Davis and a Masters of Education in Instructional Technology from the University of Texas at Austin. During my graduate program, I developed hands-on theories of education I was able to implement homeschooling my two children. I became involved with STEM professionally when I joined the USA Science & Engineering Festival Team in 2010 before the 1st festival. I immediately became inspired by STEM professionals motivated to make a difference sharing their love of STEM careers through their stories and Festival exhibits.
WashingtonExec: Tell us about the 2014 Festival. Who should attend and why?
Laura Angle: The USA Science & Engineering Festival focus is to celebrate all STEM Outreach Programs developed by corporations, non-profits and educational institutions in one huge venue – the Walter E. Washington Convention Center – April 24-27, 2014. We will have science celebrities, 150+ stage shows, 3,000+ hands-on activities, and 750+ partner organizations. The event is so big it is like Disneyland – you cannot see it all in one day!
“The Festival is a free event, made possible by our generous sponsors, geared towards K-12 students. We have a large retired group of science lovers who attend- so we say the Festival is open to everyone who thinks like a kid.”
WashingtonExec: Please describe your day to day responsibilities at USA Science & Engineering Festival.
Laura Angle: I’m currently responsible for STEM Education Outreach and Volunteer Programs which have similar missions. Our Volunteer Outreach Team was formed during the 2nd Festival year to help students and professionals promote STEM in their community. For the 3rd Festival, we are expanding on the success of the Volunteer Outreach Team with the X-STEM School Ambassador program. Our goal is to have student X-STEM School Coordinators in each school in the DC Metro Area who will manage student volunteers in their school to enroll 2,000 X-STEM Student Ambassadors. This program will give students the ability to be STEM leaders in their schools, promote STEM events in their community, participate as X-STEM Performers, or become social media gurus as X-STEM Science Journalists. Each X-STEM Ambassador will receive VIP tickets to our X-STEM Symposium with 40 inspirational speakers on April 24th, 2014.
WashingtonExec: How can parents get their children excited about STEM careers?
Laura Angle: STEM excitement begins young. The best way for a parent to get their young children involved in STEM is take them to the park, throw a rock with them, pick leaves, count swirls and notice patterns in botany. Students who have not been “in the wild” will have a hard time understanding physics if they haven’t thrown a rock, be excited about chlorophyll if they haven’t broken up leaves and made green “stone soup”, or see the beauty of Fibonacci if they haven’t wondered at flower patterns. Parents also need to answer the question, “why” and encourage students to keep asking.
“The curiosity about the world, the willingness to question, and the ability to fail without fear are the foundation to scientific discovery. Parental answers and level of excitement about the world create a foundation for the love of STEM careers.”
WashingtonExec: What’s the biggest misconception of STEM?
Laura Angle: When speaking about students, the biggest misconception we are trying to overcome is Science, Technology, Engineering & Math subjects are boring and not relevant to their lives. We want to excite students about STEM subjects, instead of telling them they must love science. We do not believe Science Fairs or poster sessions make students love science. We encourage scientists to speak simply to explain why they are excited about science. The personal reasons a scientists or engineer gives for loving science is the biggest selling point to a student for a career in STEM. We seek to show students how STEM is relevant to their understanding of the world.
WashingtonExec: What’s the future of STEM? How can other like-minded people get involved?
Laura Angle: The future of STEM is bright, especially since we have started the dialog. One of our roles at the Festival is to encourage organizations to create hands-on activities sharing STEM principles related to their fields at the Festival. Some organizations have a well designed outreach program, and some make their debut STEM activity at our Festival. The Festival provides the venue for organizations to showcase their programs and becomes a bridge between students and the workplace.
We are currently seeking partnerships for STEM organizations to sponsor or exhibit, schools to join our X-STEM program, students to become X-STEM Student Ambassadors, and volunteers to provide STEM outreach for the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival April 24-27, 2014. Go to http://www.usasciencefestival.org for more information.