Rice science and engineering graduate students and postdocs shared their research projects and educational experiences with students from Houston-area middle and high schools. Eighteen Rice researchers were invited to visit nine science classrooms in Houston Independent School District schools and one from Pasadena.
The program, Grad Student STEM Share, was coordinated by the Rice Office of STEM Engagement (R-STEM) and funded by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies through a grant from GradStarter. The public school teachers hoped the program would continue and expand. "I am appreciative that researchers came to our school," said one teacher. "Not only did they inform the students about their research, but they also motivated the students to become interested in the science field. I was glad that they spoke to the students on what it is like managing their time for their studies and their families. The students were highly motivated and talked about the presentation all day!
In response to asking, "What was the most valuable thing about Grad Student STEM Share?" another teacher answered, "Everything, especially grad students Ph.D. program details and their demos, as they showed my students how scientific concepts are applied in the world outside the classroom."
While the program was beneficial for the young students, it also positively impacted the Rice researchers. Olawale Lawal, a graduate student in materials science and nanoengineering, said that, "It's a platform for grad students to expose the younger generation to opportunities they may not be aware of. This is absolutely necessary."
In addition to enabling a rewarding outreach opportunity, Grad Student STEM Share broadened the awareness and communication skills of the researchers. Kevin Li, a bioengineering graduate student, said the program allowed him to convey his research to a larger audience.
Mario Bencomo, a graduate student in computational and applied mathematics, said he felt the impact for him was, "Presenting my research in an appealing and accessible manner to middle and high school students. It puts one's work into a different perspective."
Overall the graduate students saw Grad Student STEM Share as a valuable outreach program that they will continue to support and anticipate will grow in the coming years.