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Have you ever tried explaining your job to kids? How about Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)? If you think they won’t listen or care, you clearly haven’t met the students at Hardin Valley Elementary School (HVES). 

HVES hosted a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Night for their students to highlight an array of different careers they can pursue in STEM fields. From Oak Ridge Department of Energy, to RoHAWKtics, to a vet with a life-sized cow birthing simulator (we see you Butler Veterinarian Services), the HVES Gymnasium was full of professionals from numerous STEM fields. GRIDSMART was a proud participant.

We know how to pitch our products at tradeshows, but how do we pitch it to kids? And how do we make it…you know, cool? The trick is to grab their attention by putting their image on a computer screen for them to see. Once the children realize they’re on “tv,” they’re ready to learn how the GRIDSMART system works.

The GRIDSMART Bell Camera hangs above intersections, allowing for a horizon to horizon view of the entire intersection. Similarly, the camera was able to display a fisheye view of  the school gymnasium. We told the students they were like cars in an intersection- if they moved where we drew a detection zone, the camera would see them. What happened next? The camera made a call to the GS2Processor, displayed on the table, and the processor made a recommendation to the controller to change the color of the traffic lights.  

Some kids asked why they would want the traffic light to change? So you can get home faster, of course! Or, as one dad said, “So you don’t have to keep asking if we’re there yet.” 

What was more rewarding than seeing kids crowd around our table was to hear our engineers ask the students if this sounded like something they wanted to do one day and hear “Yes, it’s cool!” from so many students.

Exposing students to our careers and industries at an early age has many benefits. The most obvious of these is that they are the workforce of the future. Having a significant, first interaction with a company could be the nudge a child needs to consider a career path of which they may not have previously known. Imagine asking a kid what they want to be one day and hearing a child change their answer from just “famous” to “a software engineer.” Which, for the record, a famous software engineer is an option. 

When children learn more about potential career paths, they can begin preparing themselves now. It doesn’t have to be preparatory classes or extra tutoring, but engaging programs such as robotics club, STEM club, or weekend competitions that offer a fun, hands-on learning experience. This will give students a competitive edge over other individuals who don’t have the same history or experience in the field.

If you’re in the Knoxville area and want to participate in next year’s STEM Night, reach out to Jessica Everitt at jessica.everitt@knoxschools.org. Not in the area but want to volunteer for STEM programs? Most states have local STEM programs, but you can always contact your school district to see what volunteer options they offer.

Written by Brooke McGee, Marketing Communications Coordinator, GRIDSMART,  A Cubic Company

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