STEM program offers new engineering opportunity

Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Mroz
STEM students heard Katie Dziedzic ‘09 describe her coral reef ecosystem research.

Students often struggle with deciding on a college major or answering the question: “What do you want to do with your life?” The STEM Designation Program allows students to experience different STEM fields and reflect on their interests. In its third year, the STEM program has adapted its STEM experience requirements to reflect this student need.

Previously, students could participate in a wide range of STEM related activities, including Science Club, math competitions, and STEM camps, as long as they completed at least 15 hours of STEM experiences each year and met grade and course requirements. At the beginning of second semester, Mrs. Rachel Mroz, STEM program moderator, announced the new STEM requirements. Now, students need to complete four approved STEM experiences by senior year. The STEM experiences can be from a variety of categories, such as shadowing a scientist, designing an app, conducting an experiment, and participating in a STEM internship. Students can explore their future with these diverse options.

“The requirements have changed so students can experience different STEM opportunities, without having the stress of a time constraint,” said Mrs. Mroz. “Instead of looking for one hour of STEM, we are trying to make the experiences more meaningful for students to get more out of it.”

The STEM program has grown this year to include 60 freshmen students. Many students of all grade levels have participated in experiences that shaped their vision of their future or helped them identify careers they were not interested in. Senior Grace Rygiel attended a summer conference at Northwestern University that influenced her interest in medicine.

“During the summer of 2018, I went to NSLC [National Student Leadership Conference] for Medicine,” said Rygiel. “It was a week and a half long camp where we got to experience the medical school. We got to practice on medical robot simulations, dissect animal parts, and visit hospitals in Chicago. I thought it was a cool experience to see what working in the medical field would be like and to meet distinguished surgeons and doctors in the medical field.”

Sophomore Mary Newell mentors grade-school students in LEGO Robot Programming.

“At Our Lady of Wayside school, I worked with an Eagle Scout on his project to create a lego robotics team,” said Newell. “I began in sixth grade, and I did it for three years. I liked it so much that I am a mentor now, and I get to see them grow in their own STEM experiences.”

Students can research potential careers by attending STEM speakers and learning about career options from alumni.

“All our STEM speakers are alumni,” said Mrs. Mroz. “They have experienced Saint Viator and are a true testament of what a Catholic, Viatorian education can provide our students. It also shows the student how successful some of our alumni are and how they are leaders and innovators in their fields.”

The next STEM speaker is Brian Walesa ’06 on March 12. Walesa is the Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at Advocate Christ Medical Center.