TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With the arrival of spring this week, thoughts of summer are not far behind. If you’re making plans for the steamy months ahead, why not make it a STEM summer?
These days, everyone from legislators to teachers to employers is talking about STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. That’s because demand for these jobs is growing fast — up more than 15 percent in Florida last year over the previous year. Yet even though these jobs pay better than average, employers often have a hard time filling them for lack of qualified workers.
That’s where education comes in. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) is among the schools, government agencies and other organizations nationwide working to give students the skills, knowledge and encouragement to pursue STEM fields.
The MagLab provides educational outreach to all ages throughout the year, reaching more than 16,000 people face to face and hundreds of thousands online. But summer is peak STEM-time at the lab, as students, undergraduates and teachers converge for intensive, hands-on learning. (For a complete list of our summer programs, including dates and fast-approaching application deadlines, please visit our Summer at the MagLab page).
“June and July are our busiest months,” said Roxanne Hughes, director of the Center for Research and Learning (CIRL), the MagLab’s educational outreach arm. “Our summer programs give students and teachers an opportunity to do science, work with real scientists, and see science’s relevance to their lives.”
Some of the programs make a special effort to reach girls and minorities, groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The MagLab’s SciGirls camp attracts future women scientists and engineers, while the FREEDM Systems Center Pre-college Education Program targets a diverse group of students to learn about power grids, environmentally responsible power systems and renewable energy.
Grown-up students also are drawn to the lab, which runs two paid, immersive summer internship programs, one for undergrads, the other for K-12 teachers. During these prestigious “research experiences,” participants partner with a MagLab scientist on a six to eight weeklong project.
While these programs are a fun twist on summer vacation, they can make a serious impact on students’ decisions to pursue science careers.
“Research shows that students who participate in programs like our summer camps are exposed to more options for future careers and role models that they can talk to,” said Hughes, whose staff continually evaluates and improves their programs. “All in all, there is nothing more important to encouraging students in STEM fields than letting them work with real scientists.”
When those students finally graduate with a STEM degree, the MagLab is doing its part to make sure a good job is waiting for them, Over the next 10 years, the lab will generate enough goods, services and income in Florida to create more than 15,000 jobs in STEM and other fields.
“You could say our educational programs serve our own interests as well,” lab Director Greg Boebinger points out. “For our magnets to remain world-record instruments, we need a diverse community of well-trained scientists, engineers and technicians to design, build, operate and experiment in them. Without those talented and trained people, our magnets would become just a collection of very heavy, and very expensive, doorstops.”
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is the world’s largest and highest-powered magnet facility. Located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the interdisciplinary National MagLab hosts scientists from around the world to perform basic research in high magnetic fields, advancing our understanding of materials, energy and life. The lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1157490) and the state of Florida. For more information, visit us online at nationalmaglab.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at NationalMagLab.