Taylor Culman is on his way up in the world, and he hasn’t even graduated high school yet. This high school senior has a slew of awards and accomplishments and has held leadership roles in his school government, athletics teams and in the local community. He has served as Founder and Liason of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST)’s STEM Ambassador Program for Holmes Middle School, Founder and Coach of First Lego League Robotics Team, President of Business in the Science Club, Treasurer and Class Representative as well as Co-captain of Varsity Golf and JV Baseball.
This past year, Culman received the TJHSST Administrative Team Leadership Award, the Beau Thompson Memorial Scholarship and the Chantilly Youth Association Scholarship. He does all of this while making good grades and preparing for college next year.
Culman recently spoke with WashingtonExec and shared his thoughts on STEM, his experience at Nysmith School and TJHSST, his greatest STEM influences, what he does in his spare time and more.
WashingtonExec: You graduated this year from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. How would you describe your TJHSST experience?
Taylor Culman: I would say overall I had a very good TJ experience. I had a lot of fun in all the extracurriculars I was involved in, and with TJ’s built in 8th period system, in which the extracurriculars are built into the schedule, it provides a very convenient way to get involved. It is a competitive environment, as there are a ton of really smart people, and it’s a transition for most people to go from being the smartest in every class to being average or even below average. It was a lot of work, but in the end it paid off, and overall was a good experience.
WashingtonExec: Specifically, which extracurricular activities did participate in?
Taylor Culman: I played baseball and golf at the varsity level. I was President of a club called Business in Science, where we looked at the practical applications of modern technology, and learned how to turn an idea into a company. I also started and coached a FIRST Lego League robotics team of middle schoolers at a local Middle School, as well as started a STEMbassador’s program at a local middle school, in which around 50 TJ students started clubs and tutored over 100 middle school students at Holmes Middle School.
WashingtonExec: When did you become interested in STEM?
Taylor Culman: Going into TJ, I was a motivated student that made good grades and decided to pursue a more competitive education; my heart wasn’t always set on STEM. However, once I attended TJ and got more exposure, I began to develop an interest in the more technology side of STEM and began taking advantage of many of the technology classes that TJ had to offer.
“I also started and coached a FIRST Lego League robotics team of middle schoolers at a local Middle School, as well as started a STEMbassador’s program at a local middle school, in which around 50 TJ students started clubs and tutored over 100 middle school students at Holmes Middle School.”
WashingtonExec: How was your experience attending Nysmith and then Rachel Carson Middle School?
Taylor Culman: I loved my time at both schools. Nysmith provided a great education, with a tremendous amount of individual attention, and great after school programs to pursue my interests. However, one of my favorite parts of Nysmith was my classmates because everyone in the school was motivated and tried hard. When you are in that type of an environment, it makes it much easier to succeed. I found Carson to be a good stepping stone into High School, as I moved into an environment where I didn’t know as many people and still provided a competitive environment with the huge push to attend TJ.
WashingtonExec: Who in your life has been a great influence over your pursuing a STEM education?
Taylor Culman: It’s hard to put a finger on just one person, however many of my teachers throughout the years, especially at Nysmith, really were able to encourage me to not only pursue STEM, but to become interested in it. My parents also played a huge roll in this as well and have supported me throughout all of my studies.
WashingtonExec: What are your college plans? And do you know what you want to major in?
Taylor Culman: I will be attending Georgetown University next year and am in the McDonough School of Business. I plan on majoring in Finance and Operations and Information Management.
WashingtonExec: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Taylor Culman: I played baseball and golf for my high school team, and also enjoyed playing basketball and other sports with friends.
WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for students pursuing a STEM education in Northern Virginia?
Taylor Culman: Get involved. Find things that interest you and get involved a lot early. The key is to truly find something that you are passionate about, and that you genuinely enjoy doing. You will find that once you get involved in an activity or two like this, more opportunities will come your way to further pursue a STEM education.
WashingtonExec: What do you think parents should do to encourage their kids to pursue a STEM education?
Taylor Culman: Similar to above, it is important to get your kids involved, but the one key piece of advice I would have for parents is to not push your kids into something they are not interested in, as it could push them away from STEM as a whole. If they really don’t like math, but love robotics, encourage them to sign up for Robotics clubs. Don’t force them into math clubs, you’ll find that as your kids get involved in some of the great activities out there, they will want to further pursue what they are interested in and will want to grow their knowledge.