CEI’s Careers in STEAM Camp inspires the next generation of High School Students to think big for their career plans

What do you want to do after high school and college? This question is asked of students frequently but given without the tools to help decipher the answer. CEI’s Careers in STEAM Camp not only asks students that question but also takes them on a journey to gain some clarity.

After their “initial” answers when the question was asked, students immediately hit the road to find some answers. The camp kicked off at the Arizona Center with Reliance Management for a tour and discussion on the importance of shade in outdoor centers. It showcased the new shade structures built and what engineering took to incorporate them into the design. Students even got to use an Infrared Thermometer to see the difference in temperature between shaded and non-shaded areas. Reliance Management also took students to the office tower to showcase upcoming improvements from above and show their dedication to revitalizing the center for the Phoenix community.

The tour and discussion continued at SmithGroup to look at models of buildings they are currently working on in Phoenix and the steps needed to design large-scale buildings. Students could also see the new SmithGroup office and how they transformed a former food court into a major open office space for their staff. Students continued their focus on Structural Engineering by working in groups to create bridges with toothpicks and superglue. As a team, they needed to figure out the best design to hold the most weight. The winning team supported 12 pounds of weight on their toothpick structure!

The day finished with tasty treats from Novel Ice Cream, where owner Shawn Allard discussed his entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to grow, scale, and succeed as an entrepreneur in Phoenix.

Day two of camp started at the Phoenix Forge, a community maker space powered by Gateway Community College. Students built robotic hands out of laser-cut wood pieces that could grip through pressure applied from a tube with water controlled by a syringe.

Following Phoenix Forge, the students headed to Phoenix Institution, Tarbell’s. Iron Chef Mark Tarbell and his head Chef, Chef Adrian, showed the students the science behind cooking: why temperature is so important with searing, the breakdown of liquids, how to make sure the liquids emulsify when making dressings, and why motion was so important in making meringue – all through live demonstrations. Stories from Iron Chef and lessons from being an entrepreneur were sprinkled throughout. Students asked questions while dining on snacks prepared by the Tarbell’s team.

For the finale of day two, Eric Miller, CEO of PADT, Inc., came and spoke about the engineering behind product development and what it takes to build everything from parts on a rocket ship to machines that are a part of our daily lives. Students got advice, learned Eric’s origin story, and learned about the innovations that PADT made to save and improve lives.

Day 3 of Camp started with a favorite of students, the University of Arizona Medical School and Simulation Center. Rotating in stations, students treated a simulation mannequin, diagnosing his health issues, practicing techniques used during laparoscopic surgeries, and finding veins. The hands-on component was followed by a tour of the medical museum and library and a Q&A with a third-year medical student.

The day continued in the CEI LabForce Labs in Wexford’s Connect Labs, where electrophoresis was used to analyze collected samples and DNA profiles to solve a crime. Students were given a backstory and samples, which they then tested and analyzed to find the perpetrator. The CEI LabForce training lab, where all camp lab activities took place, was generously funded by the Flinn Foundation and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Multiple industries were explored on Camp’s Final Day to cap off a busy week. The day started with Heather Lennon of Imagine General Contracting, a full-service design/build firm specializing in historic buildings. Students took a tour of what was a bank space that will be transformed into a large restaurant. After evaluating the new space, the students saw the current space, what the owners need, and how Heather and her team coordinate with all the involved parties to ensure the design serves their needs and has all the necessary permits to produce a beautiful and safe design.

Heather continued the tour by taking the students to the new kitchen built outside Warehouse 215, a large-scale event space owned by Heather and investors. The new kitchen will be Kosher and help Warehouse 215 expand its offerings to more guests. At the end of the tour, students were brought back to Heather’s office to see the drawings of the kitchen to see all the pieces that needed to come together for it to be completed. Engineering takes many shapes and sizes, and with views into Heather’s projects, the students could see it take shape in projects in Downtown Phoenix. After the tour, Heather answered questions about her seven businesses, what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field, and how she keeps innovating and growing to accomplish her goals.

Students came back for a talk with BreatheEV founder Max Bregman. While in college, Max founded BreatheEV to help eliminate a pesky problem for electric vehicle users: waiting for a charge. His startup helps you make an appointment to avoid long lines and get back on the road. A recent graduate, he is now working on scaling his startup full-time. While in college, he participated and pitched at Venture Devils and was awarded AZ Inno 2023 under 25. 

The final activity for the students was a visit from Sky Harbor Airport. Did you know Sky Harbor has the largest number of employees in the Valley? 44,000 jobs! Students learned about the technology needed to run America’s Friendliest Airport, the logistics to help power travelers from check-in to boarding their plane, and the constant need to innovate to keep travel smooth. Students worked together after being posed the question, how to reduce bottlenecks in the airport? Groups worked together and proposed solutions to keep travelers moving and able to reach their destinations on time. 

After ice cream and reviewing what they learned, students were asked again what they wanted to do after high school and college after exposure to these new fields. Many were content with their original answers, but more were excited by what they learned and by the different types of careers out there. We look forward to continuing the program and helping these incredible students find their answers.

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