Coffee Break: Episode 11

Coffee Break: Episode 11

National STEM/STEAM Day was held earlier this month, but why limit it to just one day? We think the celebration should last all month long! November’s Coffee Break highlights the importance of STEM/STEAM education from two of our most passionate employees, Teresa and Celeste.

CV: I’m Celeste Voss and I’m with our talent management work group… what was I supposed to say? Oh… yes, okay. Can you see my phone? Do you want me to…?

TB: And every time you tell us it’s not going in, that’s definitely going to be in…

Coffee Break Episode 11 – STEAM Education

Name and position at Bolton & Menk, and how do you take your coffee?

TB: My name is Teresa Burgess, I am in the Mankato civil work group and I’m also in the funding work group. I was thinking about my coffee this morning, and it hit me, I’ve never drank a cup of coffee.

CV: I’m Celeste Voss with our talent management work group and I like a strong cup of coffee, usually in the drive-through at Caribou or Starbucks. Otherwise, if I’m at home, I take it with cream.

TB: Both of my parents are huge coffee drinkers, all of my siblings are huge coffee drinkers…

CV: And you’re a mom though, too! How did you ever survive when they were younger?

TB: Well, because I was busy blowing up eggs in the microwave with the kids!

Why is it important to highlight STEM/STEAM education in the classroom?

TB: I think one of the things that is so critical about getting into the classroom and teaching kids about STEM is that, if their only experience is with a teacher teaching seven other subjects, or whatever it is, they’re not seeing the passion that all of us have for math and STEM. They don’t realize the careers that are available. If we don’t teach those skills and that passion for those areas, we’re not going to have engineers and lawyers and doctors and dentists and all the other important skills that we need as a society. It’s not just that we need them at Bolton & Menk, we need them as a society.

CV: I would agree with that, as well. Seeing it from the other perspective, on the talent management side, what I think is really cool about the STEM area is the critical thinking skills, the problem solving skills, dealing with failure. It’s super important when we’re looking at the world around us and being able to manage and handle that is really important in the STEM field, too.

CV: Let’s have her try the coffee!

Can you talk about your experience working with different organizations that support STEM/STEAM education or outreach?

TB: I’m involved in a couple. The one that I really enjoy the most probably is robotics. I work with both Vex and First. I do judging and I also do mentoring. Like I said, just getting that passion. Being with those kids, seeing them stumble and not be able to answer the question and then, instead of telling them, you encourage them to go look for, “Where could we look? How could we find it?” And it’s really hard not to just jump in and do it for them, but it’s been a learning experience for me. I’ve learned a lot about patience and anybody who’s worked with me knows that’s not my strong-suit. It’s been a growth experience for me, but also just watching these kids grow. I’ve coached since they were in 4th grade and now I have kids that have graduated from programs in college. Looking at where their careers have gone and what they’re doing, it’s so much fun to see them take on that passion. Like Celeste was saying, those problem-solving skills, to see those really blossom and come forward.

CV: I participate in a few different areas as well. I help on the board of Project Lead The Way for District 77, so that’s been interesting. I just started that about two years ago. I participate in Junior Achievement which, I think people kind of think is only the financial side of things, but they’re really bringing in that STEM aspect to the programming, which is really neat. What I like to do at Bolton & Menk is connect our engineers with either organizations, student organizations, or job shadows, so students really get an opportunity to come in and see what it’s like real-world before they make a decision on what they want to do for college. Those are always fun. Obviously, it’s a little different right now with COVID, but we’re thinking outside-the-box and having some opportunities to be able to have students still engage with our engineers and get to know them a little bit, too.

CV: So, is she going to try the coffee or what?

What are some ways people can bring STEM/STEAM education into both the home and classroom?

TB: I think people need to understand that it’s not that scary to get in front of a class of kids and the bigger the class, the less scary it is because they’ll interact together, the teacher is there to help out, it’s not hard to do a project with a classroom. It shows kids that STEM is not scary. STEM is all of the fun things that we think of – sports is STEM, building things is STEM, being outside and doing all of those activities like surveying, that’s all STEM-related. Reaching out to them and letting them see all that passion, and then like I said earlier, it feeds back to you. You get that feedback of passion – this is why I went into the field. I used to feel like these juniors and seniors in high school.

CV: I think that’s cool. One of my favorite things is going to the career expos and talking with the 10th grade students and asking “What happens to the water in the toilet when you flush it?” or “Do you know where you get the water that comes from your faucet?” and they’re like “Oh… I don’t know where it goes…” It either comes from a black hole or it goes into a black hole, nobody really knows. Just to be able to show them what happens and that’s what we do in civil engineering is to help with that. You can have a clean glass of water, you can flush your toilet. TB & CV: Thanks for watching!

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