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The STEAM Conference: An Event to Promote Youth to Explore STEAM-related Fields and Potential Careers

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Informal Engineering Education with Secondary Students

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Marcelo Caplan Columbia College, Chicago

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Marcelo Caplan - Associate Professor, Department of Science and Mathematics, Columbia College Chicago. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am involved in the outreach programs and activities of the department. I am the coordinator of three outreach programs 1) the NSF-ISE project “Scientists for Tomorrow” which goal is to promote Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning in community centers in the Chicago area, 2) the Junior Research Scientists program funded by After School Matters of the city of Chicago, to promote STEM for high school students and 3) a collaboration with the Center for College Access and Success – Northeastern University to promote STEM learning in their Upward Bound Math & Science program, also oriented for high school students. More information regarding the mentioned programs can be find at

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Evelyn Oropeza Columbia College, Chicago

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Evelyn Oropeza serves as the Coordinator of Community Engagement programs at Columbia College Chicago. With more than 10 years of educational leadership experience, her workshop features insights and expertise in instructional strategies and implementation of Science,Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programs. Evelyn has worked in developing curriculum, training, and providing professional development to diverse audiences in the education and out-of school time sectors. Through her work managing the Scientists for Tomorrow programs at Columbia College Chicago, and across partners, she has proven experience implementing programs for schools and community centers in Chicago and nationwide.

 Evelyn remains an active advocate for STEM education, and college & career readiness. She has collaborated in panels and led educator workshops at state and national conferences: The Annual STEAM Conference, CR Annual Career Conference, STEAMCON, The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), Federation for Community Schools and Chicago Symposium Series. Evelyn earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago. She is currently receiving her Master’s in Business Administration from St. Xavier University concentrating in Business  Management and Project Management.

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The STEAM conference is a Student - Led conference developed as part of the collaboration between University #1 and University #2 and their Out of School Time (OST) programs Program #1, Program #2 and Program #3. The goal of the conference is to provide to the participants in the mentioned programs an opportunity to share with their community what they learned in their OST activities, as well as preparing themselves for a potential college career by acquiring and developing 21st Century skills such as oral communication, organization, presentation, leadership and others. The population participating in the programs are children and teens from middle and high school ages from communities underserved and underrepresented in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) fields. The presenters on the conference are the participants on the OST programs, when the attendees are children, teens and parents from the City. The conference if free for the attendees.

The frame of the conference is “identical” to any professional conference. There’s a keynote Speaker to open the conference, then there are two sessions of parallel STEAM hands-on workshops led by teens. Attendees need to select from the conference program which workshops they want to participate. At the end of the conference there is a closing event, in which the presenters receive the recognition of the attendees, a certificate for presenting at the conference, and a thank you letter the they can use for future applications for scholarships or college admission.

From the academic perspective, the conference provides to the OST program a frame where the participants can apply the STEAM content they learned during the year(s), in a way that also enhance their leadership abilities and skills such as leading a session and communication and presentation skills. The students selected the topic they want to present, prepare their presentation, and develop their own strategy to accomplish the goal of the workshop. For the leadership of the above mentioned OST programs, the conference provides an opportunity to implement an authentic assessment of the learning process of the participating teens. Each session has an exit survey were the attendees shared with the presenters their impressions regarding their presentation. Participants data and analysis of the exit surveys of two conferences, 2016 and 2017, will be discussed.

On 2016 the STEAM conference had 716 attendees registered and in 2017, 433 attendees registered. Overwhelming anecdotal data from the presenters states that one of the main reasons they enrolled in the OST programs is because they have the opportunity to present at the STEAM conference. From the workshops attendees’ exit surveys 75.8% in 2016 and 72.5% in 2017 stated that they would like to present at the STEAM conference in the future. The data shows that the conference has an impact as a motivational tool for the audience (presenters and attendees) to be involved in STEAM related activities and events.

Caplan, M., & Oropeza, E. (2019, June), The STEAM Conference: An Event to Promote Youth to Explore STEAM-related Fields and Potential Careers Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33427

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