Let’s Grow STEAM(x)!
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) were all introduced to over 3,500 students from the greater Columbus region on November 29, 2018 at the Trade Center. Each elementary school brought 25 students to represent them while the high schools and middle schools brought 50 students. Over 90 exhibitors set up in our North, Center, and South Hall for the Let’s Grow STEAMx Youth College and Career Expo with STEAM related activities to engage and ignite youth.
Youth College and Career Expo (YCCE) invited businesses and organizations from all over the South to come expose their fields in order to give students an opportunity to learn about careers in various industries and allow students to see their full potential. Exhibitors included TSYS, Aflac, Ft. Benning, Georgia Power, Hughston Foundation, and so many others. Not only did YCCE show students possible career paths, students were also able to check out area universities such as: Columbus State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Albany State University, and Fort Valley State University.
The expo was founded and began in 2016 with co-founders Robbie Branscomb, Tashee Singleton, and Leshan Ferguson and premiered alongside the First Robotics Competition hosted by ColumbusMakesIt. In 2017, looking to expand the offerings for youth, YCCE relocated to the Columbus Trade Center. Some of the YCCE 2018 sponsors were: TSYS, Georgia Power, Aflac, Allwell, Columbus State University, Columbus Tech, Liberty Utilities, and Fountain City Classic, Inc.
How did you come up with the idea to have an event like this for the community?
A few years ago, I was asked to lead an effort to revive the educational platform of the local fair. During the same time, I was exposed to the possibility of inspired educational opportunities for youth through STEAM. Armed with a deep understanding that STEAM was going to be a game changer for education, our future workforce, industries and communities, I felt compelled to ensure community youth were ready to take full advantage of this offering in a non-intimidating manner. Starting with a few schools displaying students’ classwork which aligned with STEAM criteria, we quickly evolved into a STEAM competition. Within 3 years the competition grew to over 900 participants from schools throughout the area. This was not only exciting but encouraging. Students, parents, and educators challenged us to expand our awareness and knowledge of inspired learning activities using STEAM.
The same year the competition evolved into an expo highlighting STEAM careers. This offered students the opportunity to ask relevant questions and make the connection between their interest in the classroom and their future career path.
What were you hoping students would take away from the expo?
Our intention is for participants to gain a deep appreciation and comfort regarding STEAM curriculum and activities. Our hope is that youth are encouraged to explore and embrace STEAM and be inspired by all STEAM has to offer. Through engagement with STEAM professionals we expected participants to gain insight as to how their interests align and enhance their STEAM learning experience. We believe the expo is an AMAZING opportunity to infuse real-world exposure and experiences into an informal learning environment. We believe an event like this expo brings classroom experiences to life.
What is one thing you hope you can change for this event next year? And why did you choose the Trade Center?
Our hope this year is to continue refining and making the overall experience better for attendees and exhibitors to benefit the school systems along with local and regional employers.
The vision we have is expansive yet sustainable. We believe the Trade Center gives adequate room to grow the event in a manner which benefits the attendees, exhibitors, guests, and the overall community. The Trade Center’s staff is always very professional and accommodating; they are always working to prove they too want to see this event grow and be successful.
We also LOVE that the Trade Center is located in Uptown Columbus and directly across the street from the Marriott Hotel; making lodging for overnight exhibitors and guest ideal.
How have you grown this past year exhibitor wise and how do you hope to grow this next year?
This past year was our second year hosting the event at the Trade Center and our growth exhibitor wise was phenomenal! We were able to bring on new exhibitors from TSYS and AFLAC. In addition, we had representatives from Turner Broadcasting and Pratt & Whitney leading engaged discussion around their internship programs.
We also had an EXPO FIRST this year with invited special guest celebrity artist, Mr. Robert Peterson. He honored the expo with his unique art pieces and also hosted an art seminar for youth at a local middle school.
We believe the Trade Center is an ideal location to host the Youth College and Careers Expo.
Who is a person in your life that inspired you?
A person who has inspired me in life is my dear friend, mentor, champion, and now boss Representative Calvin Smyre. He is a person who I’ve always known to be devoted to his life of service to others and his community. He has exemplified for me the true meaning of servant leadership. I strive daily to devote my life to the service of others and my community.
Let’s Grow STEAMx has grown the last 2 years and continues to grow. We are gearing up to have them back in Fall 2019! Stay tuned for a date!