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Students Learn About STEM Careers Directly from Those in the Field

What is it really like to work in the fields of engineering or computer science? Is it possible for such jobs to include an element of creativity?

Students in the high school’s Project Lead the Way Principles of Engineering and Computer Science tracks recently had a number of unique opportunities to hear the answers to these questions and more from professionals working in STEM-related industries. Although Covid restrictions precluded in-person guest speakers this year, these virtual experiences provided valuable insight for the students as they consider future career paths.

At the end of May, Principles of Engineering students participated in a live, remote “tour” of Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana and Washington. Tour guides demonstrated each step in the fulfillment process, “from click to ship.” The tour was offered through Amazon’s Future Engineer program, which aims to expose more students to the world of computer science and engineering.

During the virtual tour, the students learned about robotics, algorithms, cloud computing, machine learning, waste reduction, optimization, and other 21st century technologies developed by computer scientists and engineers. They connected with a manufacturing engineer from Boston, a software engineer from Mumbai, and a research scientist from Nigeria, with each speaker sharing what has inspired them in their chosen careers.

“During class, we have been learning about the roles and responsibilities of engineers in material life-cycle design, from extraction and manufacturing to distribution and consumption, and disposal or recycling,” said Principles of Engineering teacher Alan Zollner. “Our students prepared questions regarding environmental impacts, people, and quality control and gave the tour an enthusiastic thumbs up.” He added that the tour encouraged the students’ thinking, not just about roles in engineering and computer science, but also as consumers.

Earlier in the month, the students had enjoyed a visit, via Google Meet, with Marcelo Giuliante, vice president of operations at Giuliante Machine Tool Company in Peekskill. The guest speaker’s perspective was particularly relevant, as the students had been learning about various manufacturing processes in class.

Giuliante discussed the particular manufacturing processes at the Peekskill plant and the products that are produced there. He provided specific examples of how the engineers and machinists at his company apply math, physics, engineering and creativity to their jobs.

Students asked him questions about his personal path toward engineering, as well as engineering education, the work environment and the current demand for a STEM-educated workforce.

“Mr. Giuliante is part of the school’s PLTW Community Partnership, and he gave our students an idea of STEM careers from the perspective of a smaller company specializing in high-precision manufacturing,” said Zollner. “We are very appreciative of the time he put into preparing and speaking with our students.”

Both of these interactive experiences, with Amazon and Guilante Machine Tool Company, followed a meeting in April with Dr. David Abraham from the IBM Research Center in Yorktown. Dr. Abraham had spoken with the Principles of Engineering and Computer Science students, via a remote link, about quantum computing and STEM careers in a large company such as IBM.

“I think the students found it very useful to learn about the contrast between engineering at a large corporate research center versus a smaller machining company that produces highly specialized aerospace components,” said Zollner.

Amazon fulfillment center "tour"