Careers explored at STEM conference in Rifle |

Careers explored at STEM conference in Rifle

CMC Assistant Dean of Instruction Lisa Moretti helps students launch their rockets during the 5th Annual Student STEM and Empowerment Conference in Rifle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, focused-learning is becoming more popular and more important to just about any industry in Colorado, none more so than the energy sector.

For Western Slope middle and high school students thinking about or hoping to one day pursue a career in the oil and natural gas industry, STEM training can be what separates the best candidate from the good ones.

On Monday, members of the Colorado Petroleum Council invited students from across the Western Slope to check out the STEM and Empowerment Conference hosted at Colorado Mountain College’s Rifle campus.

For the second straight year the Rifle campus hosted STEM conference, which included presentations from keynote speakers, as well as activities and workshops designed to not only teach students about STEM, but also for them to have a little fun while learning.

“We hope to motivate and empower them around STEM.”— Lynn Granger, Colorado Petroleum Council executive director

The workshops ranged from math and puzzle solving to hands-on rocket building and robotic work.

The Colorado Petroleum Council’s new Executive Director Lynn Granger said Garfield County remains a central player in the Colorado natural gas industry as Rifle continues to be a great spot for the conference in her eyes.

She saw Monday’s conference as a way for local students to gain exposure to STEM and STEM-related careers in the oil and gas industry. The conference served as an opportunity for sixth- through 10th-graders in the region to see what they might be interested in going forward.

“We hope to motivate and empower them around STEM,” she added.

CMC and Coal Ridge High School math teacher Michael Schwager hosted the brushbot robotic workshop for students, which had them build circuits and small robots with the heads of toothbrushes.

He said the activity looks at using binary coding, which is a basic fundamental of computer and science engineering and programming.

“As a teacher you can’t have a cool game every day,” he explained. “It’s a nice way for them to have some competition and have fun with it.”

In his experience, this type of hands-on learning experience can be a great way for students to explore and learn.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, careers that engage with robotics in the oil and natural gas industry include petroleum engineers, mechanical engineers, directional drillers, electrical engineers and drilling engineers.

CMC adjunct professor Lisa Moretti said the STEM activities give students the chance to work with complex subject matter and apply problem solving skills to everyday life.

Moretti helped students in the rocket-building workshop, which culminated in the rocket launch to close out the afternoon.

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