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Medical students help push STEM awareness

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Two students from the Carver College of Medicine are traveling to a STEM festival in Oelwein, Iowa, to speak with students of all ages about the field.

By Annie Laird
annalisa-laird@uiowa.edu

Today, two Carver College of Medicine students will attend the Northeast Iowa Family STEM Festival in Oelwein, Iowa.

The festival is open to students from pre-K to 12th grade to explore STEM fields.

Emily Strattan, STEM education coordinator for the University of Iowa, said the UI will be one of many exhibitors at this event.

She said they hope to educate the students about STEM concepts and careers through demonstrations and exhibits and to answer any questions they might have about the field.

“We would like everyone to know the University of Iowa is a strong supporter of STEM education and that we want to be a resource for them,” she said.

She said the goal of the STEM festival is to get kids thinking about and interested in STEM, but more than that, to know that the university really supports the field.

Strattan said they try to attend as many STEM festivals and events around the state as possible so they can target student interest in the field in more places than just this region.

The UI will join other colleges at the event, including the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Upper Iowa University, Wartburg College, Northeast Iowa Community College, and the University of Northern Iowa.

Sarah Eikenberry, one of the students attending the festival for the university, is enthusiastic about the demonstrations.

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“We’ll have plastinated specimens, so those are real organs that have been covered in plastic so they can touch them and interact with them, and then we’ll also have a little box simulating laparoscopic surgery so they can take instruments and sort of experience that,” Eikenberry said.

Both Eikenberry and Levi Endleman, who will also attend the festival, are part of the Medical Student Ambassador Program, a group of students who are ambassadors for the medical school.

Some of the program’s responsibilities include hosting potential students, helping during interview days, giving tours, and working on internal and external STEM events.

“Internal events are events that people come in and do, so people like Girl Scout troops or middle school and high-school students that come visit the campus,” said Eikenberry. “Then we have external events where we go out to classrooms or community centers, and those are very similar to what we’ll be doing at the STEM festival.”

Eikenberry said she was excited to be visiting a more rural area for the event.

“You know, that’s where we need more doctors,” Eikenberry said. “Oelwein is a smaller community, and I think they only have one community hospital, so I think it’s great that we can go, and hopefully we can get more people in the community involved as well as raise that interest in STEM to perhaps get some future physicians out of there.”

Endleman said it was great to see the reactions of children at events like this.

“I believe it’s formative events like this one that shape kid’s opinions and get them thinking and interested,” he said.

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