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Innovation Quarter News

SciTech 2014: Connecting Students to STEM Careers

Gathered in an auditorium, 25 seventh-grade students are shown a series of X-rays, CT scans and MRIs of injuries and charged with the task of identifying the abnormality in the scan.

The students’ engagement intensifies as Clifford Howard, MD, an interventional radiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, follows up each diagnostic image with a photo of the actual injury. Howard explains that his presentation has a “Where’s Waldo effect,’’ and is quite successful at engaging audiences.

This particular audience is a group of middle-school students participating in the 2014 SciTech Summer Technology Institute. The two-week summer program gets students excited about careers in the STEM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—through exposure to unique and hands-on learning experiences. SciTech is a collaboration between Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

This summer about 140 sixth- through ninth-grade students, most from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system, participated in SciTech. This is the eighth year the enrichment program has been offered.

“We offer a wide variety of STEM experiences,” said Denise Johnson, EdD, the Winston Salem State professor who directs the SciTech program. “[Students] have an opportunity to see how STEM works in so many careers. No matter what their aspirations are, they can really leave with an appreciation for learning advanced math and science.’’

Howard takes a forensic approach to his instruction, and the students pepper him with questions. Interpersonal connection is one of the main objectives of SciTech.

For Kiran Solingapuram, PhD, also a radiologist at Wake Forest Baptist, the focus is on diagnostic and therapeutic uses of radiology as he shows students how a MRI-PET scan works. Solingapuram decided to enter the field of medicine after the death of a close family member due to cancer.

“Finding a cure was my reason for getting into this field. I’m happy to see if I can motivate students to pursue a career in the field of medical research to bring about change.’’

Howard and Solingapuram are only two examples of the many STEM professionals the students interact with over the two weeks, but their stories and approaches are all targeted at the same goal, as stated by Howard:

“I hope that it [SciTech] sparks an interest in medicine in these young students or at the least furthering their education.’’

Learn more about the SciTech Summer Technology Institute.