Inaugural STEM Day for employees’ children a hit

At the Rockwell Collins' STEM day, one of the activities employees' children enjoyed was the"out of this world" event, where they learned they can use a telescope in the daytime sky. (Enlarge image)

Kevin Laubengayer always takes advantage of any opportunity he’s given to encourage his 8-year-old daughter, Katerina, to embrace the worlds of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The manufacturing manager for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was one of more than 500 people who attended the inaugural STEM Day for employees’ children at our Recreation Center in Cedar Rapids.

Hosted by the Rockwell Collins Women’s Forum, the event was intended to give children of all ages exposure to a myriad of STEM-related fields. Employee volunteers put on demonstrations and activities covering robotics, astronomy, biology, physics, aviation, and a myriad of other fields.

“I’m very glad to work for a company that’s willing to let people invest their time and energy to do these kinds of things,” said Laubengayer. “It piques the interest of those who are going to be the future of science and development.”

The need for more STEM professionals in the United States is well-documented. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 5 percent of American workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, yet they drive more than 50 percent of the country’s sustained economic expansion.

That’s why it’s important for Rockwell Collins to continue supporting STEM education by hosting events like the one in Cedar Rapids that are designed to spark the curiosity of the next generation of engineers and scientists.

“Right now, kids see the abstract of math and science and it doesn’t do a whole lot for them until they can see what the results are,” said Laubengayer, referring to the importance of showing children the real-world applications of what they’re learning in school. “Hopefully, this bridges the gap between ‘I’m taking science class’ and ‘I’m going to be able to work on something that goes in an airplane, or a remote control robot.’”

Smruthi Sandhanam, a senior at Linn-Mar High School and associate intern in Commercial Airline Programs Systems Engineering in Cedar Rapids, also attended the event. She wants to encourage other girls to take an interest in STEM careers, as she did in elementary school when her father, Sandhanam Ganapathy, a senior business integration analyst, took her to a “bring your child to work day” at Rockwell Collins.

“I just want to reach out to other girls and tell them that they’re not limited to what’s in front of them,” said Sandhanam. “There are all these programs and other opportunities that are out there.”

And those opportunities are not just in Iowa. On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Rockwell Collins will host the “Engineering Her Future Week” in Tustin, California. The event, which also was held last year, will provide STEM education for 60-80 girls from kindergarten to sixth grade.

In Melbourne, Florida, our company has partnered with the Florida Institute of Technology to provide financial-aid scholarships for children to attend STEM summer camps. In 2014, 22 students received this aid, and more students are expected to take advantage of the available scholarship funds this year.

“I think there’s this stigma from society as a whole that’s telling women not to get into [STEM fields], but it doesn’t have to be like that,” said Sandhanam.

In fact, Sandhanam wants to help increase the number of female STEM professionals in the workforce. Currently, women only hold about 25 percent of STEM related jobs, despite making up close to 50 percent of the nation’s workers.

Riley Behr, a senior at Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa, and a member of the school’s FIRST Robotics Team, believes extracurricular activities like robotics can help get kids interested in engineering and technology. In fact, Rockwell Collins is one of the sponsors of Linn Mar’s FIRST Robotics team.

“There’s been a lot more people joining robotics teams lately, and there are programs for high school students all the way down to kindergarten students,” said Behr, who also attended the event in Cedar Rapids. “It’s so great to see people getting involved.”

Story posted: July 30, 2015

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