Inspiring the next generation of STEM students

NIU senior Jasmine Carey has had her eyes opened to a range of career possibilities in STEM education through her work with the STEM Outreach team at NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement.

As an instructor at the center’s STEM Outreach camps and classes, Carey has connected with students from elementary through high school to share her love of science and technology. She’s also been able to put her engineering design skills to work building and maintaining some of the large exhibits that the team uses in STEM presentations, such as the PVC pipe organ.

Carey, an electrical engineering technology major focusing on CAD (Computer Aided Design), has enjoyed connecting with students and helping to spark their interest in STEM fields. “One of the best parts about teaching STEM camps is the fact that I get to teach what I’m learning here at NIU,” says Carey. “Getting the children to have that ‘aha’ moment is a critical element of how we teach concepts here at STEM Outreach,” she continues. “Instead of giving them the answer we want them to think and try different solutions until they have that moment where it all clicks.”

Carey is looking forward to the upcoming STEMfest, a full-day festival of hands-on activities for all ages celebrating innovations in science, technology, engineering and math. STEMFest will take place at NIU’s Convocation Center on Saturday, Oct. 21.

“I like being on the track, where the kids are running to each exhibit and they’re so excited,” says Carey. “As soon as they walk in, you just see their faces light up, and they take off.”

Carey first connected with STEM Outreach when she arrived at NIU as a transfer student and immediately joined Huskie Service Scholars. Seeking volunteer opportunities, Carey met Pettee Guerrero, STEMfest coordinator and founder of STEM Divas, a program designed to welcome girls ages 7 and up into the STEM fields. “From there I volunteered at everything where it was possible to volunteer, including STEMfest!” Carey says. “I’ve been volunteering ever since, until I became a student worker two years ago.”

Carey’s coworkers at the P-20 Center value her commitment and her ability to communicate with students. “Jasmine is outstanding at connecting with our students, and I love watching her interact with them,” says STEM educator and camp director Jeremy Benson. “She is comfortable and confident, and makes everyone feel welcome and involved.”

Benson believes the experience Carey and other student workers gain at the P-20 Center will prepare them for career experiences they’ll encounter after college. “The work that Jasmine does with us, along with all of the students who assist with our classes and other projects, is important because it provides them with real experiences in the fields that they are interested in,” says Benson.

Carey has decided to pursue a career as a STEM educator, and she is considering a graduate degree in educational technology. She hopes to pay forward the impact STEM teachers have had on her. “When I was in a Chicago public high school, my major was architectural drafting,” says Carey. “I had a teacher named Mr. Stapleton who introduced me to that world. He really had a big impact on me. Now I’m here in college about to graduate in a STEM field. I know what impact that teacher made on me, and I would love to make that impact on another kid.”

To learn more about STEMFest or to sign up to volunteer, visit stemfest.niu.edu/stemfest. For more information about NIU STEM Outreach, contact 815-753-1272 or stemoutreach@niu.edu.

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