Student-focused STEM Fest seeks businesses

Youth get exposure to science, technology, engineering, math

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



Sponsors of STEM Fest, a three-day event scheduled for this fall that aims to expose Southwest Washington students to science, technology, engineering and math fields, are looking for businesses to open their doors to students during the festival.

The event, sponsored by the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, is set for Sept. 20-22. School districts in Clark and Cowlitz counties are invited to participate with classroom and school-based activities, as well as educational tours and events at local businesses, said Mary Brown, director of strategic initiatives for the workforce council.

The business activities will be one-to-two-hours long, and can be targeted to elementary, middle, or high school students to show them the career possibilities at local companies. Sponsors expect most business events to be held on Friday, Sept. 20, with various community-based activities taking place over the following two days.

Some 30 businesses already have offered to participate. They include Maul Foster Alongi, an engineering and planning firm; Washington State Patrol; HDR Engineering; Sigma Designs; and United Natural Foods Inc.

Columbia Springs, a Vancouver environmental education nonprofit, will also participate with student visits on Sept. 20 and a public guided tour of its fish hatchery the following day, said Gala Miller, the organization’s executive director.

“This will turn people on to different jobs and careers in STEM fields,” said Miller, who is active in organizing STEM Fest.

Miller added that the event could develop into a significant civic event for Southwest Washington. Is it patterned, in part, after a similar, but much larger, community education event in Flagstaff, Ariz., that has become a key element in that community’s identity, she said.

Brown said teachers already are calling to line up workplace activities for students during STEM Fest, and she’d like to have plenty of opportunities available. She hopes to gather as many business participants as possible within the next month.

More information about STEM Fest is at Interested businesses can contact Brown at 360-567-3170 or