The Utah STEM Action Center organizes an annual event for educators around STEM, but it’s no conference. Instead, the Utah STEM Fest is all for students.
There’s no fee, schools simply have to bus students to the exhibit hall and the Utah STEM Fest takes care of the rest. It’s a simple model and tremendously popular. Last year, more than 17,000 people attended.
We chatted with one of the event organizers, Marketing Communications Specialist Kaitlin Felsted, about how it works and how the Utah STEM Action Center recruits exhibitors.
What’s the goal of Utah STEM Fest?
STEM Fest is an opportunity for middle school and high school students to see STEM careers in action! With more than 60 exhibitors from industry, education and government, students will have the opportunity to interact with science, technology, engineering and math across the whole spectrum through hands-on experiences.
How’s this event different other education conferences?
STEM Fest is unique, because it’s not just exhibitors coming and showing what they do. EVERY exhibit is hands-on, so students can really experience what they can do with science, technology, engineering and math. From coding to underwater robotics to rocket launching, it’s really an opportunity to take what students are learning in the classroom and apply it to real life.
Where did the idea come from?
The event initially stemmed from a career days event that industry had hosted for the past few years in Provo, Utah. Last year that same group of industry members decided to take the event and give it a twist, angling the event towards a STEM theme. The three-day STEM Fest was a huge success, with students and teachers from all over the state in attendance. Feedback was extremely positive from educators, asking that they hold STEM Fest annually, and with each year we hope to see the event grow and reach more and more students.
There’s an impressive list of presenters, how do you attract these exhibits?
First off, we are so excited that Utah’s industry sees the value of working with Utah’s youth to help them understand the jobs of the future. Once we sent an email inviting potential exhibitors to attend, most were able see the value of STEM Fest. The majority of our exhibitors are directly STEM-related and they view this as another opportunity to expose students to STEM in an exciting and meaningful way.
Thanks Kaitlin. Before we let you go, why are you a part of this work?
I often wish I had more opportunities, more mentors to expose me to STEM Fields. I’d like to see STEM become an acronym that everyone knows and understands. Even though I did not pursue STEM while in college, I am excited to use my skills in Marketing and Communications to engage students, teachers and parents in science, technology, engineering and math by showing them that these fields are cutting edge and exciting.