MANKATO — “Besties” Quesandra Dahn and Tari Nagberi were like many of the high school students at the first African American Engineering Academic Day on Monday: interested in the discussion topics but far from settled on careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Twin Cities-area girls were most interested in “seeing the dorms,” said Nagberi of Brooklyn Park, who, along with the other 200 or so statewide high school kids, would be getting a tour of Minnesota State University after lunch.
And that was OK to conference coordinators. Dahn and Nagberi were just freshmen, after all. But by the time they left campus Monday, MSU professors and students hoped to have planted a seed or two of interest in exploring STEM careers in college.
Shayla Braunshausen, event coordinator, said the conference came about because of the demand for skilled workers in fields such as engineering. The campus already offers an annual Latino engineering academic event, and Braunshausen wanted to expand the opportunity to another diverse population.
Among the activities Monday, the high school students heard STEM professors speak, listened to input from an MSU student panel and saw several science displays, including the automotive and manufacturing engineering technology department's Formula SAE car.
Brian Martensen, interim dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, told the students that President Obama sees a need for 100,000 engineers by 2020. With the development of so much technology the past 20 years, Martensen said people in those jobs will have the opportunity every day to “ask good questions” and use that technology to come up with solutions to modern-day problems.
“I think this is a very exciting time to work in that area,” he said.
Keynote speaker Winston Sealy, who teaches in auto and manufacturing engineering technology, talked to the students about the scientific process of “regelation,” which he demonstrates to his students at the start of each semester.
If you put a string across a block of ice, the string will slowly cut through the ice due to its mass and latent heat. But as it cuts through, the pathway will refreeze, which is why regelation is often coined “the process of no change.”
Sealy challenged the students to remember Monday's important lessons they learned about diversity and STEM instead of letting “regelation” take place in their minds.
“Are you going to be different getting back on the bus today?” he asked.