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  • Pam Ray

Spring Into STEM-tastic Futures

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

This time of year is a great opportunity for parents and students to seek out career fairs, expos, and similar events.

These gatherings bring together important STEM stakeholders: business people who need workers, educators charged with preparing future employees, parents working hard at ensuring their children’s success, and, the most important stakeholder, the students.

Meet Matt and Zach and learn about their journey in pursuit of a marine focused career where their participation in an annual career fair helped them build supportive networks at school, with businesses and access resources from nonprofits while pursuing their passion for boating.

Matt Wilson and Zach Williams were boaters before they could walk. The teenagers grew up crabbing, fishing and swimming with their families in the Chesapeake Bay. Each teen saved up to purchase boats - Matt, an old Boston Whaler in need of repair, and Zach, a Jon boat with an old Evinrude outboard on the back. Both projects ignited a passion for fixing, cleaning and building boats.

When it came time to get serious about their futures, they already knew that a marine career didn’t mean they’d be painting hulls for the rest of their lives. Beginning in 10th grade, Matt and Zach started learning about boat building, repair and marine systems in a class that also required teamwork and leadership skills essential to today’s workforce.

Matt & Zach were students at the AACPS Center for Applied Technology, also known as Career Technical Education (CTEs). They were pursuing a “dual track” high school education, which demanded a commitment to both their high school academic classes and a CTE program.

Matt & Zach’s marine technology class was an official exhibitor at the annual marine and maritime career fair along with business, industry, schools, nonprofits, military and more. They brought the boats they had built in class, a passion for hands-on learning and their love of boating to hundreds of students and parents in grades 6-12. They were excellent peer-to-peer mentors enthusiastically promoting the high school based CTE program and the marine industry jobs. They also used the career fair as a resource for seeking their own mentors, to learn about summer jobs, to identify future scholarship resources and to explore a wider selection of marine and maritime careers.

Surprisingly, to many, the CTE program that Matt & Zach were promoting required a depth of STEM knowledge and skills including: the science of buoyancy, the engineering of hull shapes, the technology driven world of engines, critical math skills every step of the way, the art of woodworking, wood technology and boat design. Today’s job markets increasingly require a variety of STEM skills. A boat rigger needs to know math. A boat builder must meticulously calculate formulas and measurements. A sail designer needs to understand aerodynamics, structural mechanics along with the rapid changes in sail making materials.

By Matt & Zach sharing this knowledge and experience with other students and parents, they opened more doors of opportunity for both students and employers to the skilled workforce pipeline for marine and maritime fields.

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