Program puts student on STEM career track
High school student Miamaya Parra envisioned herself working in the medical field after college. After participating in a science, technology, engineering and math program (STEM), she is convinced a STEM career is right for her.
In December of last year, Parra and 50 other high school freshmen from throughout Chicagoland began a five-month seminar that introduced them to the fundamentals of energy, smart city technologies and sustainability. Sponsored by ComEd and HFS Chicago Scholars, the course is offered to students in the HFS program, which helps economically disadvantaged and overachieving students attend top private high schools.
“I knew what STEM was. But, the program gave us a better idea of where it’s used in our everyday lives,” Parra said. “Beforehand, I wasn’t really interested in a STEM career. Since the program gives us the opportunity to meet people in the STEM field, you see that there are a lot more jobs than just being an engineer.”
Students in the program develop projects that aim to create healthy, economically strong and sustainable communities. They present their projects to a panel of judges, and the top three teams are awarded a total of $4,000 in scholarships. Students’ projects ranged from energy efficient phone chargers to smart streetlights. Parra and her team developed a smart device that collects and reuses water to generate electricity.
“Our project uses rain and snow to generate electricity for houses. Essentially, reducing your light and water bill,” she said. “A device would be installed, like a dam, on the side of your house. The water would also be filtered and could be used for cooking and showering.”
Parra and her teammates worked alongside professional engineers to develop their innovation. Professional engineers served as mentors, offered guidance and discussed careers in STEM.
“Our mentor was very helpful when putting our project together,” Parra said. “He gave us an outside perspective and showed how it affects real life.”
As Parra furthers her education toward a career in STEM, the skills she learned from the program will help her along the way. As the five-month program closes, the possibilities for Parra are just beginning.