STEM speakers pique students’ interests at the highest levels

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Experts in their fields visited Anne Frank Elementary School throughout the year to advance STEM efforts.

Their unified message was that students should get involved with technology, science and math at an early age, pursue their career with hard work and passion and, of course, know their stuff. Representatives from Google, J.P. Morgan Chase Oil & Gas Management and Wailua Technology, Inc. generously volunteered their time to students to guide and encourage them, while imparting extremely high level data in engaging and exciting ways. Gifted and Talented Teacher, Jeni Baldwin, and 3rd Grade Social Studies and Science Teacher, Gabriela Oropeza, recruited the STEM speakers to peak the students’ interests.

Mr. Ivan Oropeza, a Level 3 Software Engineer, working on the Google Shopping Express project at Google, Inc. in Mountain View, CA, taught the value of perseverance and life skills to all of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. He taught the students that the keys to success lie not only in mastering science, technology, math and other classroom-learned skills, but also mastering their intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. 

Mr. Oropeza guided that, firstly, you must dream big. Secondly, you must have a safety group net that is trustworthy to objectively evaluate your performance and behavior. He stated that teachers, counselors and coaches will honestly tell you if you are doing a good job or need improvement. Thirdly, he said it is critical to track all of your relevant skills progress to measure your need to improve and set goals accordingly. Fourthly, help others! In a small world like ours, a solid social network can make the difference in succeeding or not. Lastly, you must remember that even heroes, such as Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, also struggled. When asked what his dream was, Mr. Oropeza answered that he was already living it, working at Google.

During Career Day week, J. Stephen King, Vice President of Specialty Assets Oil & Gas Management of J.P. Morgan visited all 32 students of the two 5th grade Gifted and Talented classes who were busy with an energy unit to discuss fracking, a hot topic in North Dallas. The students were highly engaged with the energizing talk that featured multimedia and visuals. Students were allowed to demonstrate their new found, complex knowledge with interactive models as well.

Mr. King kindly stayed with a smaller group of students who then showed him their original PowerPoint presentations on alternative energy topics. Afterwards, these lucky students were treated to additional information and advice on how to be more effective speakers. He also handed out hit keepsakes: squishy mini safety helmets. Mr. King has a lifetime of experience in the oil fiends as he began his career as a drilling fluid engineer.

During the Skype-a-thon on November 29, 2017, the entire 5th Grade GT class earned their virtual miles with an interview with Jake Baldwin, a software developer with Wailua Technology in Houston, Texas. Via Skype, Jake Baldwin, recent Electrical Engineer graduate from The University of Texas at Austin, told the students that you can never be too young to start learning to code. He said, “I started when I was in college, but I wish I had started when I was in middle school!”

Mr. Baldwin explained that students should get hands-on experience writing code and building something, rather than only reading about it. He recommended starting with not only the coding languages C and C++, as they are the foundation to most languages used today, but also HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, because they are the core languages for web development.  A few of the 5th graders were familiar with the advice, which impressed Mr. Baldwin. He also encouraged them to put in the time because although it is incredibly difficult, if you have the passion for it, you will succeed with hard work.

The following week, the students participated in the Hour of Code with Code.org, along with several other ambitious classrooms around the school.  In the GT 5th grade room, knowledgeable students took the lead in teaching the rest of the class how to code, then all of the GT students participated during their class time. Code.org offered appealing, student-friendly programs such as Minecraft Hour of Code and Star Wars: Building a Galaxy of Code to make learning accessible to hungry young minds.

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