In the foyer of a building on the Suncoast Technical College campus, two robots race around a confined area moving objects and collecting purple plastic donuts. Rapt bystanders watch the frenetic movements. As time winds down, one of the robots, controlled remotely, maneuvers up a clear plastic seesaw, inches forward to reach perfect balance, and comes to a stop. The crowd erupts.
This robotics challenge was one of many at the Career Skills Challenge at Suncoast Technical College on December 9, where students got to show off their science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) knowledge and network with their peers and professionals in the field. Thanks to a generous grant from AT&T, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County was able to help make this amazing, hands-on opportunity a reality.
The Education Foundation is committed to preparing students for life, and the challenge did just that. Students from all high schools across Sarasota County participated in skills competitions in fields such as robotics, problem-solving, cooking, CAD design, and many more. They worked together to solve problems, be that creating a great dish using limited ingredients or designing a desk. They had a chance to meet other students who shared their interests and network with adult professionals in their field, seeing firsthand how their passion for STEAM could translate into a career.
The morning buzzed with activity. Smells of the canapes and quiches wafted about the foyer and the halls, where visitors could sample the amazing dishes and discuss them with the student chefs, who proudly served their creations.
In classrooms, teams worked diligently. CAD designers, staring into their laptops, developed desks to be judged by an engineer at Boar’s Head Provisions Co. and another engineer who’d started his own business. These students had the opportunity to learn so much more about potential careers
A senior and a freshman worked together to solve a problem: in two hours, with limited supplies, they had to create a machine that would hold up to 50 spheres and dispense three to five of them at least three separate times. The senior supported his partner, giving him advice while allowing him to contribute and find his voice. The spirit of teamwork, so vital in the workplace, thrived, and it was fitting that the two young men won their competition.
By noon, the students had completed all the challenges, and Venice High School won the all-around school champion for the Career Skills Challenge. While the victory certainly gives Venice bragging rights, all the participants had an amazing chance to explore their passions and showcase their unique talents. Thanks to the generosity of AT&T, the students’ understanding of college, career, and life as well as STEAM was that much stronger. The students left inspired and that much more ready for their next challenge.