Connecting Students with STEM


Field trips, guest speakers boost interest in science, technology, engineering, and math

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Jordan Watkins and Savon Hill check out one of Hartford Hospital's two Life Star helicopters. The Bloomfield teens were part of a summer enrichment academy to expose students to STEM careers.

How many patients can you fit in there? Do you get motion sickness? Do you ever land on the highway?

Those were just a few of the questions students had for the pilot and paramedics who fly Hartford Hospital’s Life Star.

The students, more than two dozen sophomores from Bloomfield High School, visited the hospital in August as part of a program called STEP2STEM. After touring the facility’s Hyperbaric Wound Center, they made their way up to the main building’s rooftop helipad to meet the Life Star crew.

“In a single morning, these young people were introduced to a variety of professionals and technicians in healthcare: a growing industry with vast career opportunities,” said Judy Resnick, executive director of CBIA’s Education Foundation, which coordinated the tour. “They learned that while these jobs all center on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), they vary from manufacturing to marketing to hands-on medicine.”

Throughout the summer, the Education Foundation arranged for Bloomfield students to visit or host guest speakers from UTC Power, The Hartford, Creaform, GE Energy, Northeast Utilities, Travelers Risk Control Forensic Lab, Hartford Hospital, and CNC Software.

Stepping It Up

Bloomfield is one of 17 high schools throughout the state participating in STEP2STEM, a program aimed at raising students’ interest in STEM and their enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) math and science courses.

STEP2STEM combines intensive academic support with school-to-career activities such as college visits, field trips to STEM-related worksites, and guest lecturers representing science, technology, engineering, and math professions.

Funded by a U.S. Department of Education AP Incentive grant awarded to EastConn, the program targets young people who are often underrepresented in AP courses and STEM careers. Participants come from schools that meet federal low-income guidelines, with at least 40% of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

“Many of today’s high-growth, high-level jobs require excellent math and science skills,” says EastConn education coordinator Adele Swart. “Unfortunately, our state has the worst achievement gap in the country,” she adds, referring to the disparity in educational outcomes for economically disadvantaged and minority youth versus their peers.

“Connecticut is 50th out of 50,” she says. “We’re dead last.”

Connecting with the Community

STEP2STEM helps address the problem by providing greater encouragement and assistance for low-income students in the STEM disciplines.

“They’re gaining the kind of experience that sparks their interest in math and science and opens their eyes to new ideas and possibilities,” says Swart. When they visited Tolland-based CNC Software Inc., for example, they were wowed by how clean and high-tech a modern manufacturing environment is and by the level of support and perks the company offers its employees.

“The place is like a resort,” says Swart. “Seeing this kind of workplace firsthand helps students set higher goals and have higher expectations of themselves.”

Jesse White is Bloomfield High’s school improvement specialist. An experienced science teacher, White coordinated the school’s summer enrichment academy with the goal of exposing students and teachers to STEM professions: “and not just the obvious ones,” he notes. “We met local fuel cell engineers and pilots and forensic specialists and saw innovative processes such as 3D laser imaging. One of the best parts was that the kids gained access to young professionals who look like them, who grew up in their neighborhoods. This is a powerful way of not only connecting academics with potential careers but also of connecting with their community. “

Approximately 100 Bloomfield students have taken part in the STEP2STEM program.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer and editor at CBIA. She can be reached at

Click here for updates on CBIA’s education and workforce development programs.

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