A total of 138 second-grade students traveled to Clemson University on Feb. 28 for an Engineering Expo, where they built paper airplanes, designed assembly lines, and shot straws into hula hoops.

While these may seem like games, they provided students with an introduction to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM. In a recent jobs report, students graduating college with STEM majors are entering the best job market in a generation for those who have the best coding and technical skills. These skills are in-demand across a variety of industries. The need for these types of employees will only increase in the coming years.

Second-grade students take part in an Engineering Expo at Clemson University.

Second-grade students take part in an Engineering Expo at Clemson University.

In response to this growing need, 12 organizations from the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences came together to offer hands-on activities to spark students’ interest in these STEM fields.

Students learned the basics of CPR and how this type of training could help save someone’s life, experienced how virtual reality is used in STEM fields, designed airplanes with a sustainable future in mind, and evaluated which sorting process was the fastest and why for each set of building bricks.

In each of these activities, students were required to use their higher-order thinking skills to solve problems. They were able to use a given set of tools to make products more efficient. They were required to use teamwork to make the best use of their time.

If students see the value in their education, they will be more likely to put forth their best effort to achieve their goals. The first steps to a brighter future and a career in the promising fields of STEM, is early exposure to these topics and hard work in the classroom.

Faculty support for this event came from Sandra Eksioglu of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Dotan Shvorin from Prisma Health. Tau Beta Pi and INFORMS Student Chapter worked together to make this event happen, with activities organized by Maggie Elpers and Berkay Gulcan, two representatives of these groups. The industrial engineering department, IISE Student Chapter, and CUSHR financially supported this event by providing materials, lunch, and transportation for the students from Clemson Elementary.

Also, a special thanks to the following students and organizations for their help in making the Engineering Expo a success:

* Cody Dunton from the Clemson Bioengineering Society

* Skyler Lorey from Theta Tau

* Ashley Burns from 4H Youth Development

* Anerson Schrader from UCBS

* Mattie Piness from SWE

* Alexandra Nukovic from CI Team- Med Devices for Developing Countries

* Melanie Hedge from Alpha Omega Epsilon

* Katie Jurewicz from HFSE Students

* Keerti Kosana from ACM-W

* Lakshana Nagaraj from IISE Student Chapter