Students envision new careers at STEAMfest in Detroit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Micah Newell wore a virtual reality headset like a crown Saturday as he learned of the endless career opportunities in STEAM fields.

Detroit — Micah Newell wore a virtual reality headset like a crown Saturday as he learned of the endless career opportunities in STEAM fields. 

Nearly 15,000 people filled Cobo Center during the National Society of Black Engineers Convention this week. On Saturday, students from around the nation joined STEAMfest, a science fair and interactive laboratory for pre-college and K-12 grade students. 

STEAM is an educational movement to add the Arts into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum and careers. It’s about the importance of integrating design thinking into scientific and technological discovery.

The one-day show-and-tell event included tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, engineers, artists and authors who helped get students hands-on interactive opportunities to highlight career opportunities featuring virtual reality, robotics, aerospace and artificial intelligence. 

"This is my third year and I've learned that I want to go into construction management, but I also want to study business administration so I can own my own construction company," said Newell, a junior at Beechcroft High School in Columbus. "So far, all of the virtual reality stuff has been a lot of fun and the self-driving car."

This is what students saw while wearing a virtual reality headset to build a plane at STEAMfest.

The event was held during the National Society of Black Engineers 45th Annual Convention in Detroit. It is focused on how to "increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community," organizers said.

“The NSBE Annual Convention is one of the greatest achievements of the civil rights movement,” said Anthony B. Murphy, national chair of NSBE Professionals. “Thousands will come to Detroit in an effort to teach, mentor and employ the next generation of black engineers, who will design the next cutting-edge systems and build the cities of the future. The NSBE Professionals are humbled by the opportunity to serve our community and shape the great future we all desire.”

Kaleia Maxey, left, 15, of Chicago, smells essential-oil-scented rice held by WSU psychology and pre-medicine major Gabrielle Gordon, right, of Southfield, before Maxey makes a heating and cooling pack.

Victoria Lyons, a STEAM teacher, attended the convention as an advisor but also to find ideas she could bring back to her classroom at Thomas Jefferson Elementary-Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Some people think STEAM teaching is too expensive or takes too much time, but you look around and here are exhibitors using things from the Dollar Tree," Lyons said. "We've learned so much and there's so many ideas I'm going to take with me starting with growing water crystals."

Michigan's Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist is one of the thousands of former students whose lives have been changed by the National Society. Gilchrist is expected to speak at the convention’s culminating event, the 22nd Annual NSBE Golden Torch Awards, which will honor outstanding achievers in STEM and the community Saturday night.

“The growth of our annual convention and our membership over the past three years is just one of many indicators that NSBE’s strategic plan is working,” said NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid. “As the black community becomes increasingly aware of the great career fields in engineering, the number of black engineering graduates in the U.S. is rising. NSBE’s corporate and government partners are responding with greater and greater support of our mission. These trends are good news not only for our community but for the nation as a whole.”
Twitter: @SarahRahal_

May Mobility Field Autonomy Engineer Jared Miles, left, of Ypsilanti, talks to Jasmine Horton, 13, of Pittsburgh, about the Ann Arbor-based  startup's self-driving shuttle.