A Step Ahead

Early STEAM exploration introduces students to a world of opportunity

andy feng
Andy Feng is president of mYe’s Youth Leadership Committee. Photo by Jake Turskey

Andrew Wang first took web design classes at Michigan Youth Empowerment Foundation (mYe) in 2017.

One thing led to another and the Novi High School sophomore’s interest and extracurricular work in 3D printing led him to volunteer as a student teacher. In that role, he developed mYe’s curriculum for classes in 3D printing and robotics, and monitored student progress.

He says making STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) accessible for all ages helps keep students engaged.

“Kids new to programming and design or other STEAM concepts get to explore all topics hands-on,” Wang says.

He’s one of many students in Oakland County who are seeing early success grow from STEAM career exploration. Andy Feng, a junior at Troy High School and president of mYe’s Youth Leadership Committee, leads student groups in community outreach initiatives.

“As STEAM gets more popular worldwide, skills I’ve gained in STEAM classes, including confidence to present my ideas, will help me stand out,” Feng says.

Grace Cai founded mYe to promote STEAM and empower students.

“I want students to see how traditional STEAM fields can work with the humanities, art and technology design to contribute to innovation and social responsibility,” Cai says.

Oakland University
A student participates in a STEAM summer day camp at Oakland University. Photo courtesy of Oakland University

Oakland County Workforce Development Manager Jennifer Llewellyn says software development, mechanical engineering, manufacturing, IT and computer systems engineering are experiencing the most growth in the county.

“Oakland County is a natural STEAM workforce,” Llewellyn says. “We just have to build awareness of the field and the positions available.”

Llewellyn also stresses the importance of career exploration for students, noting, “Empowering students to explore options in a field with such exponential growth can help them get a step ahead.”

Dr. Chris Kobus, associate professor and director of outreach and recruitment for Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, is celebrating his ninth summer doing just that. Leading OU’s year-round outreach programs and STEAM summer day camps, Kobus highlights the impact of real-life STEAM experiences on students.

Students can explore alternative energy, coding, engineering exploration, robotics, creative problem-solving, math readiness and more at Oakland University’s summer day camps and outreach programs. Other summer camps and classes in Oakland County invite elementary through high school students to explore topics that range from health sciences and robotics to engineering, graphic design and culinary arts at Oakland Schools Technical campuses, Cranbrook Schools, the Detroit Zoo and The Robot Garage.

“Supporting STEAM interest as early as third or fourth grade is crucial,” Kobus says. “Giving students access to use and test equipment and perform experiments in state-of-the-art labs shows them what a career in STEAM can really look like.”