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Full STEAM Ahead: Muirlands’ Career Day links learning to skills and jobs for La Jolla students

Over 30 experts presented at the 6th-annual Muirlands STEAM Career Day.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Pneumologist Dr. Laura Crotty joined professors from seven different UC San Diego departments and more than a dozen biomedical professionals on Thursday, Feb. 6 at Muirlands Middle School to educate the sixth- through eighth-grade students in ways that go beyond the conventional career day. The annual Muirlands STEAM Day had students engaged in learning about a multitude of industries that use traditional skills in innovative ways.

Sponsored by the Muirlands Middle School Foundation, the STEAM event was created to “inspire the kids in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics,” said co-organizer Jaqueline Fisk, a Muirlands parent, industrial engineer and former STEAM event speaker. “We volunteer to inspire the kids to not label themselves and see how certain skills are applied in the real world.”

The event differs from a typical career day in that organizers “really shape it so there’s a bit of vision,” explained Anna DeAngelis, Fisk’s co-organizer and fellow Muirlands parent. DeAngelis said this year, the event had a biomed theme that aligns with La Jolla high school’s new biomed path. “This year, we have speakers who show how they apply school subjects directly to their work,” she continued, explaining that four of the speakers use math daily — a mathematician, cryptography expert, an accountant, and a math tutoring director. Three others — a novelist, a journalist and a linguistics professor — use English and languages in their jobs.

Another feature of the event that sets it apart from others, Fisk stated, is that she and DeAngelis “work with the presenters on doing demonstrations and interactions to show Muirlands students that science can be an exciting career.”

Sugar & Scribe head cake decorator Ray Vizcaino details the science behind his cakes.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Event presenter Kathy Williams, who teaches psychology at UCSD, as well as practicing privately with Rady Children’s Hospital, said she sees a great need for an event such as this one, as it illuminates possibilities for kids: “They learn about psychology tricks used in video gaming and other industries, which they find very interesting.”

Shortly after Fisk welcomed the presenters in the school auditorium, Muirlands eighth-grader Solomon Weinstein spoke, thanking them for their time. He remarked that these presentations help guide him and his peers into the future, and “give the roots of the tree the water they need to keep this country alive and healthy.”

Seventh-grader Emma Weibel also thanked those in attendance for “taking the time to help educate the next generation of this world.”

In her speech, eighth-grader Austin Milligan recalled how one presenter last year inspired her to pursue the biomed path at La Jolla High, which will allow her to explore more medical-focused classes that align with her interests. Speaking about all the presenters, she declared: “It’s hard not to be inspired!”

After Muirlands principal Geof Martin thanked the speakers for donating their time and skills, the presenters dispersed to various classrooms where they spoke during different periods, as students rotated through, attending three different “classes.”

In one classroom, Dr. Reid Meloy, a board-certified forensic psychologist, spoke about criminal psychology and investigating the motives for crimes. In the room next door, Jacques Verstraete, a UCSD mathematics professor, posed math riddles to the students. Artist Karen Deicas DePodesta offered a hands-on presentation in art as she distributed painting supplies, encouraging students to blend mathematical learning into their creations.

In another building, Sugar & Scribe head cake decorator shared his experiences on baking shows for the Food Network, regaling his audience with how he uses engineering principles, such as weight distribution, to create his higher-than-three-feet-tall cakes.

These stories, Fisk stated, are what make the Muirlands STEAM event so memorable. “This is what interests the kids,” she said. “It’s not just about the jobs, but about the presenters’ lives; the ups and downs of getting there.”