Science, technology, engineering and math are no longer just subjects for the classroom. More and more, these are the areas of expertise needed most in the job market. With an ever-evolving landscape, getting a chance to dive into real-life scenarios that involve STEM could propel future careers in a number of fields for generations to come.
For those who already have skill sets in these areas, volunteering is a way to help the next generation. Here are four STEM-related volunteer activities to get the wheels turning.
STEM Scouts is a pilot program from the Boy Scouts of America, and all genders are welcome to participate.
Through experiential learning and activities, the STEM Scouts program helps kids grow their character and their skill sets. Participants explore different areas of the STEM field, be it robotics, chemical reactions, circuits, insects and more. STEM Scouts gives kids a chance to tinker while learning about a variety of topics and interacting with professionals from the STEM field.
The hope is this opportunity will translate into interest in careers in these fields, but the program is also just fun. This volunteer opportunity is for STEM professionals and people who love working with kids.
Freewheelin’ Community Bikes
Volunteers make the wheels go ‘round at Freewheelin’ Community Bikes. Volunteers are the heart of this business and, without them, there would be no Freewheelin’. It is a 501(c)(3) developmental organization that uses bicycles to engage youth in activities that teach them about lifestyle habits, leadership and other valuable skill sets.
At the heart of the organization is a program called Earn-a-Bike, where youth work with a mentor to learn basic mechanic skills and build character by learning the importance of perseverance, problem-solving and accountability.
A volunteer can offer help in a range of fields as a mentor in business systems, mechanics, information technology, computer technology and more.
TechPoint Foundation for Youth
TechPoint Foundation for Youth is committed to growing Indiana’s future by working with underserved K-12 students, including girls, minorities and low-income households, to offer access to experiential opportunities that will inspire them to explore STEM careers.
Both companies and individuals can volunteer. For example, Nichole Hutchins-Benson, an employee with The Schneider Corporation, volunteers as a judge for FIRST LEGO League Jr. She said junior FLL judges work with six- and ten-year-olds "who are just getting into really basic programming and love things like LEGOs and robots."
Every year has a theme, and past themes include recycling and wildlife conservation. 2018’s theme is Aqua Adventure.
"The kids work together to come up with a storyboard and focus around what the theme is and then are able to present that to judges," Hutchins-Benson said. "It builds teamwork, collaboration, researching skills, and independence as well because coaches and teachers are there for support but aren't there to do the work."
Another opportunity with local volunteers from STEM-based company The Schneider Corporation is Trig-Star, a program of the National Society of Professional Surveyors. It holds competitions at the high school level that culminate in a national $5,000 scholarship.
Many states also provide thousands of dollars for Trig-Star scholarships. The program promotes the practical application of trigonometry through the practice of surveying, a profession with a heavy emphasis on math.
NSPS has many opportunities for members to volunteer to present the Trig-Star competition at local high schools.