- Editorial Offices
- 325 Brantly Hall
- Missoula, MT 59812
- (406) 243-2488
- Icons By Maria Maldonado
Virtual conference links high school students with industry representatives and academic experts in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
Missoula College Professor Tom Gallagher swivels to face his office computer and smiles into the camera mounted on top of the monitor. His class today? Roughly 500 high school students in classrooms scattered across Montana.
Gallagher is one of a dozen UM faculty who participated in Montana STEMFest, a two-day virtual conference series held in October that connected high school students with industry representatives and academic experts in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Gallagher, director of Missoula College’s Information Technology Program, partnered with Josh Hughes of Team Kaizen Games for a session called “Combining Games, Coding, and Careers.”
“They were much more interested in our gaming friends than in me,” Gallagher says of his audience, adding he was happy to expose students to the diverse and unexpected career paths an education in mathematics can provide.
More than fifty classrooms participated in the nine live sessions, with topics ranging from exercise science and communication to sustainable products. Another 2,000 students later watched recordings available on YouTube from Inspired Classroom, LLC.
We Are Montana in the Classroom, a program of the Broader Impacts Group in UM’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, organized STEMFest in partnership with Missoula College’s Energy Technology Program. Inspired Classroom facilitated and broadcast the event, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, UM, and VisionNet.
We Are Montana in the Classroom engaged more than 5,000 K-12 students with UM faculty members, graduate students, and professionals during autumn semester.
Missoula College has a strong track record of reaching high schoolers as well. In the 2014-15 academic year, more than 700 students registered for dual-enrollment courses, making Missoula College and UM’s program the largest in the state.
STEMFest is yet another way to engage students, says event organizer Brad Layton, director of the Energy Technology Program.
“I really hope they find their niche, or find a science mentor they can get behind, to see the value of where science is going,” he says.