Op-Ed: Help students by volunteering in STEM and the Shoreline Fair

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ray Koelling wears his Shoreline STEM Festival shirt proudly
By Ray Koelling

It was with disappointment, tempered by a bit of eternal hope that things would change, that I read of the possible shutting down of the Shoreline STEM Fair.

Ask anyone in any STEM profession; aeronautical engineer, research scientist, science or math teacher, surgeon, laboratory tech, salmon geneticist, chemist or 1,000 others I could list. 

It is rightfully accepted as near axiom by those in the profession or those in the know that in general, students cannot shun STEM in K-12 and suddenly think about it for college or a profession. It is then too late. There is too much competition in the 21st century from other students in grades K-12 who have already spent those years expanding and honing a curiosity, creativity, love of STEM.

From its inception, the fair that I started has had the support of legislators from the 32nd and 46th. Great STEM teachers at LFP, Kellogg and Shorecrest helped my son along on his way to an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering and were supportive of the STEM fair. And volunteers were always there.

At the Eastern Washington Regional Science and Engineering Fair that I started two years ago, we have the support of 35 teachers from 20 schools, the Spokane School Board and even ESD101. Along with the invaluable volunteers. And it is growing.

The result here has been six high school students who have each won all-expenses paid, 6-day trips to the International STEM competition to compete against 1,800 students from 80 countries and regions. 

In addition, between our regional, state and international competitions we have seen our students receive tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, cash awards from NASA, cash awards from hospitals and watched scores upon scores of kids head to college with bright, stable, lucrative STEM careers ahead of them.

That STEM wave is all around Shoreline. Don’t let many of the kids of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park be drowned out of their futures by that wave. At Bremerton where I am still on the Board of the State Science and Engineering Fair, each year we award over 1.5 million dollars in scholarships, cash, travel and other awards to 600 kids from all over the state. 

Shoreline and Lake Forest Park students need to get in there and be a part of it. Competing students are from Mountlake Terrace, Seattle, Renton, Kitsap and many districts, both larger and smaller than Shoreline and from all over the state.

Last May, when I took four Eastern Washington students to the Internationals, Dhruik Parilkh from Jackson High right there in Mill Creek took home $58,000 dollars for his project that was second place in the world.

I urge some of you to step up on September 17th and volunteer. (See previous article: Will there be a 2019 STEM Festival)

It is not that much time in the context of a life when you consider the help it would bring to students. 

This flailing, stumbling and increasingly toxic world needs a more STEM educated public and citizenry. 

We ourselves have done a poor job in taking care of our environment and world. Kids who are students right now will be the (hopefully) more informed public and citizenry in the future than we have been in the past. But they need to start now.

Help students by volunteering in STEM and the Shoreline Fair. Don’t ignore the students of STEM who are the future of society and our world simply for a lack of a short time commitment in the present.


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