Annual Month-Long Festival to Celebrate STEM Across Maryland
The Maryland STEM Festival is a month-long celebration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics held across the state of Maryland every fall. Hundreds of fun, interactive STEM learning events are hosted throughout the state by participating agencies and organizations such as libraries, public and private schools, colleges and universities, museums, professional associations, and nonprofits educational organizations to highlight the educational, cultural, and financial impact of science in this state.
The core mission of the festival is to cultivate a positive environment that inspires children and students to pursue science-related careers. However, people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences are welcome to participate in the festival! The Maryland STEM Festival, Inc. (the organizing body) actively works to increase participation from minority communities and those underrepresented in STEM fields. All events are free and hosted in different locations across the state of Maryland- making it one of the most accessible and inclusive STEM events in the country. In fact, Maryland is one of the few states in the nation to have a state-wide STEM festival!
Events at the festival include hands-on activities, talks, lab tours, nature experiences, expos, exhibits, and performances, and focus on multiple facets of STEM. While some people view STEM in a very narrow light, Maryland STEM Festival showcases STEM in its broadest of terms. By broadening the scope of STEM, the festival aims to introduce students to different opportunities and careers in STEM.
“Every area of STEM is not for everyone. However, there certainly is an area of STEM for each person. STEM includes all areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. That means it may include robotics, agriculture, biotechnology, zoology, or cybersecurity. We see STEM is every aspect of life and we aim to create a culture of STEM in Maryland.”
-Phil Rogofsky, Director
The Festival also aims at surmounting some of the existing hurdles and misconceptions in STEM opportunities. Part of the Maryland STEM Festival, the Blue Collar STEM Conference, promotes STEM jobs that require non-traditional training. A common misconception among the public is that one must complete a traditional four-year college path in order to enter a career in STEM. A recent report by the National Science Board states that by 2022, skilled technical job openings will exceed available workers by 3.4 million. Our previous BioBuzz articles have also stressed the need for increasing awareness of non-traditional STEM opportunities in the BioHealth Capital Region.
“Some of the most in-demand jobs that require STEM skills don’t necessarily take the traditional 4-year degree. Non-traditional STEM workers can arise out of community college, internships, apprenticeships, and high school. We want to make students and adults aware of all the different ways they can enter STEM careers.”
-Phil Rogofsky, Director
While the theme of the festival itself is STEM-focussed, numerous events are designed to attract students with varying interests, even those who believe they are not as STEM-inclined. For example, the extremely popular annual art contest draws participation from hundreds of students each year. Past events have incorporated trivia, music and comedy performances, and even a parade (check out these highlights from the 2019 STEM Parade at Bowie State University!)
Besides hosting the annual flagship festival, the Maryland STEM Festival, Inc is active in STEM initiatives throughout the year. They are also developing a number of STEM games for use by students to master various STEM concepts. Their first game, Agrownomics, goes through the growing life cycle to show some of the ways agriculture uses STEM.
Despite being entirely virtual due to the pandemic, the 2020 Maryland STEM Festival was phenomenally successful. The 2019 Maryland STEM Festival drew participation from over 35,000+ attendees across 700 events. This year, the 7th annual celebration, running from October 16th to November 14th, will include both virtual and in-person events. The theme for the upcoming festival is ‘Health and Wellness’- an important one is given the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have across the world. Health Care and Wellness are very large and diverse segments of the Maryland economy.
The organization is actively recruiting volunteers, hosts, and organizations to join to help with their initiatives. The festival website contains the growing list of the 2021 events and information about past events.
Over the years, the Maryland STEM Festival has motivated students of different backgrounds and experiences to take a greater interest in STEM and pursue a STEM-related/focused career. Within the BioHealth Capital Region, recruiting and training the next generation of talent and workforce will be crucial to the long-term success in our growing biotech and life sciences hub. Wherever you are in Maryland, we look forward to your support and participation in the upcoming 2021 Maryland STEM Fest!
Nivedita Uday Hegdekar
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