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STEMspiration event offers local students a glimpse at careers in science & tech

WMUR Meteorologist Hayley LaPoint explained a bit of what it's like to work in the scientific world to eighth and ninth grade students who attended a "STEMspiration" event at Winnisquam Regional High School last Wednesday. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 20, 2018
TILTON – Eighth and ninth grade students in the Winnisquam Regional School District were invited to take part in a "STEMspiration" event last week, featuring women who have made their way successfully in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and more than 30 students took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about careers they may be interested in pursuing one day.

Women who met with the students on Wednesday came from a variety of fields. Among them were Lee Ames of Silver Tech, who introduced them to careers in Web Design.

"Web sites don't just appear you know," she told one group.

As she spoke of different job opportunities with a company such as hers, she had them note skills and knowledge needed for positions such as IT Administration, Coding, Project Managers, and even sales.

"There's a lot that goes on in my industry with a lot of skills involved," said Ames.

Nearby Erin Badger of a company called Tevora spoke about the interesting field of Cyber Security while Brandi Emerson of TIBCO not only explained what her software design company offers for careers but shared some personal thoughts as well.

"There are many opportunities in the field of technology," she told each group. "Explore and find out what makes your heart happy then go out and make it a career."

Among the benefits of a job within a technology firm, she said, is the ability to work remotely from home. They typically come with regular hours and have many needs for people in finance and other skill sets that most wouldn't think of when searching for a job.

"As a mom, this works really well for me because I can stay at home if I need to, yet still get my work done," said Emerson.

Christy Collins of Konica Minolta brought a hands-on development from her company for the students to explore. While Konica Minolta is known for printers and similar types of innovation, the company has now expanded into more technology. That expansion includes "The Double," a computer-operated robot that is changing the way people work and live.

One use is that The Double can place hospitalized children back in the classroom as the slim device rolls through a classroom, changing angles and allowing the operator to see all that is taking place in the room as they control it from their own computer. Businesses are also using it for employees who aren't onsite but need to take part in meetings and a sturdier outdoor version can assist in search and rescue missions and more.

"The Double essentially allows you to be in two places at once. It can be controlled from anywhere. Even if you are in China you can be here in New Hampshire at the same time through your computer," said Collins.

Introducing the students to careers in the physical sciences was meteorologist Hayley LaPoint, known for her televised weather forecasting on WMUR.

"While I am on TV a lot, I really think of myself as a scientist first. We're just the ones who come in contact with the public," said LaPoint.

She explained that she and other television meteorologists are just a few of literally thousands of scientists working around the world to examine the weather and relay its potential impact to the public. And to shoot down a myth, she said that like the others in her more public side of the field, they do not just go to Weather.com then read their forecast on air.

"That couldn't be further from the truth," LaPoint said. "I study the weather patterns and then come up with my own accurate forecast each day."

She told an all girls' group in one session of the round-robin style event that being a scientist has its challenges though for women breaking into a male-dominated world. LaPoint told them to keep working hard toward their goals.

"People also made fun of me in school because I was that weather nerd…but I used that as fuel to get me to my dream job," said LaPoint.

She also said that math was not her strong point in college but she worked hard to pass those necessary classes, meeting with professors every day for extra help so she could graduate and become a meteorologist.

Winnisquam Regional School District's Technical Integrator Maria Pearson organized this year's "STEMspiration- Inspiring girls to explore STEM careers" but both male and female students were included. The only difference was that all the inspiration came from women who have succeeded in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

"This is the second year we've held this event, and it's part of a passion I have to get students interested in STEM," said Pearson, who herself has a degree in engineering. "The district is committed to exposing students to STEM in grades kindergarten through 12th and this is one way of doing just that."

Also on hand from the district was WRHS science instructor Natalie Amtmann who said she brought one of her classes to the event because she hoped they would be inspired.

"Things like this can help them figure out a job they might like to pursue one day. Providing them with this exposure to people already in these fields and learning what they're all about is vital," Amtmann said.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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