Eagan High School junior Rachel Schornak came to the school's STEM Career Fair on Tuesday night with pressing questions about biomedical engineering, her chosen career path.
She left with a clearer view of the industry and her future educational path, courtesy of the roughly 80 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals gathered at the event—the first of its kind at the high school.
"They gave you tips on what college path to go on, they explained more of what they do, and more insight into what the industry has," said Schornak, a high school gymnast.
Schornak, who came with her parents, was one of hundreds of students in attendance at the fair, which was sponsored by a handful of local businesses and the high school's own FIRST Robotics Team. The fair included dozens of booths loaded with gadgetry and presenters from STEM-related fields, plus a flight simulator, a handmade model train, a telescope and other curiosities.
In addition to the booths cramming the high school cafeteria, organizers recruited four EHS graduates to give in-depth presentations in the school auditorium. Presenters included mechanical engineer Emily Reineccius, actury intern Katie Tubbs, environmental educator Monica Rauchwarter and Erin Miska, who gave a technology presentation.
The STEM fair was the brainchild of Jim Lynch, a member of the EHS faculty and an advisor for the robotics team. The idea for the fair, Lynch said, came from conversations he had with his own son, who wanted to be an aerospace engineer, but didn't know the first thing about the field.
"I thought 'How great would it be to have him sit down with an aerospace engineer and ask him those questions,'" Lynch said.
The purpose of the fair, Lynch added, wasn't to find definitive answers every student's career-related questions, but to inspire attendees and connect them with professionals who may be able to expose students to new, unexpected career choices.
“I think it's cooler than heck," said WCCO Broadcaster and Meteorologist Mike Lynch, one of the professional attendees at the fair. Mike Lynch spoke with visiting students about Doppler radar and his background as an amateur astronomer. But the meteorologist also advised local students "not to wear the blinders" when it comes to choosing a professional field.
"I tell these students what I tell any students, and that’s just to keep doors open to several careers," Mike Lynch said. "There’s so much as else out there, even when you get to college."