Jan 28, 2013

Holyoke Catholic holds annual science and engineering career day



Story and photos by Rebecca Drake

CHICOPEE -- The numbers of American students pursuing careers in science and engineering have decreased dramatically in recent years.

But Lise LeTellier is working to change that.

LeTellier, the science department chairperson and environmental science teacher at Holyoke Catholic High School, here, was the organizer of the Jan. 25 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Day at the school.

"We need to inspire our students to become scientists, to become engineers and to become mathematicians, and to look at all those STEM careers that we have," said LeTellier.

So, throughout the school day last Friday, students attended presentations by teams of science and math professionals from the local business community. Southwick resident Jeffrey Carignan, an employee of Instrument Technology, Inc., in Westfield, demonstrated how various optical devices can be used in fields such as medicine, law enforcement and manufacturing.

Carignan, whose company specializes in the design, development and manufacture of these Remote Viewing Instruments (RVI), believes the future of the United States depends on achieving excellence and innovation in the manufacturing sector.

"I have a great interest in the manufacturing ability in the United States," Carignan told iobserve. "It is truly how this country became wealthy and I believe it is our future." He said sharing his enthusiasm and expertise with high school students is an important way to nurture future scientists and engineers.

"We're grabbing them right at the time when they are starting to think about what they're going to do in their careers," he said. "Not only will it do them a lot of good but it will do the country a lot of good."

Holyoke Catholic senior William Cardinal agrees that the STEM Day provides valuable information and inspiration for students. "There are so many people in the school who want to get into these colleges, but they don't know what they want to be, so I feel like the STEM Day is a real opportunity for them to look into it."

Even for students like Cardinal, who said he has wanted to be a pilot for a long time, the STEM Day provided details, such as the educational and practical requirements for pursuing specific careers. "It's a good opportunity to find out what the things you have to do are before you can start making a good living at what you want to do in life, what you're passionate about," he said.

Carignan was joined during his presentation by Peter Luksas, an aerospace engineer. They addressed students in the classroom of biology teacher Christian Covert. Both presenters emphasized the exciting opportunities for professionals in their fields, including the chance to work on projects around the world.

"I just got back from Paris two weeks ago," Luksas told the students. Asked by a student what their favorite parts of their jobs are, Luksas said he most enjoys "working on a team and being around technical products"; and Carignan said he is always fascinating by learning about "how things are made."

And while female students have traditionally shown less interest in technical careers, LeTellier said, "I have a lot of young ladies who are very gifted and one of the things I try to do as the freshman teacher is to notice that early in their career, so I can start to have them look at the (career) paths by going through STEM Day.

"And they can do independent research as seniors, which really can set them up for a great college career," she said.

Watch for more on the STEM Day at Holyoke Catholic High School on the Feb. 2 edition of the Springfield Diocese's weekly newsmagazine program, "Real to Reel," which airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.