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STEM at Wake – A Cool Learning Experience and a Taste of Wake Forest

On Wednesday April 9 and Thursday April 10, prospective Wake Forest University students visited campus for STEM at Wake, a program showcasing the various ways in which Wake Forest students can engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

They worked with Paul Whitener, an information systems staff member, to complete an electric circuit that powered an electronic keyboard of sorts. On one end of the circuit was a piece of tin foil; on the other were various pieces of fruit.

The whole system was plugged into a laptop.

The note that rang out from the laptop changed, depending on which piece of fruit was touched to complete the circuit.

“You’re going to go home and say ‘That was really cool, but what can we actually do with it?’” Whitener said to the group, one of a dozen small groups of prospective students participating in STEM labs Thursday.

Whitener said the fruit keyboard is a fun way to demonstrate the work being done in the computer science department, where students work to find ways to make technology accessible to people with disabilities. Finding alternatives for people who can’t operate a traditional computer keyboard or smartphone is just one example.

About 60 high school students from around the country who have been admitted to Wake Forest for the fall semester visited Thursday to get a taste of the science and technology work being done on campus. It serves to give students who have committed to Wake a look at their options and perhaps help sway those who’ve yet to make up their minds.

“I’ve gotten a favorable impression,” said Rose O’Brien, a Reynolds High School senior who’s interested in biology. “I’m looking for openness of mind, because I think creativity is just as important in science (as art).”

STEM at Wake is part of the statewide effort to expose more students to the types of work available in STEM fields. Each group of students rotated through six labs, introducing them to a variety of departments. Lance Henry, assistant director of Wake Forest’s Institute for Public Engagement, said the event works to open students’ eyes up to a future they may otherwise have a hard time imagining. On Wednesday, a similar program was held for students at 12 local public high schools who aren’t necessarily attending Wake Forest.

“It’s to help them imagine their future in college and in a profession,” Henry said. “Doctors are easy to imagine, because that’s how most of us interact with science. It’s not the same for some of the research and technology that’s available in these fields that we’re showing them.”

It was an enlightening day for David Stancil, a senior at Calvary Baptist Day School. Stancil said he knows he wants to pursue a degree in the sciences and is considering medicine, but hasn’t made up his mind. He liked the options offered by Wake Forest.

“I like that it’s a liberal arts school with strong science and medicine (programs),” he said. “I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to do for undergrad in the sciences, so this is a nice day to see all of that.”

This article was featured in the Winston-Salem Journal and the event also covered on WFMY News 2 and photos may be found at Flickr.

Category: News