A New STEM Sprouts at McCombs Middle School

McCombs and Lincoln alum Dr. Vuong Naiyama, a 3rd year medical resident at Iowa Methodist Hospital, shows students a human brain during McCombs’ STEM Career Day.

McCombs science teacher Debbie Victor and her colleagues will have a hard time topping the school’s first annual STEM Career Day, but they think they just might.

In hopes of prodding middle school kids to consider eventual careers in fields based in science, technology, engineering and /or math, Victor invited a host of real-world practitioners to come and pique some curiosities today, and oh boy, did they ever!

McCombs and Lincoln alum Dr. Vuong Naiyama is a 3rd year medical resident at Iowa Methodist Hospital and he brought along a disconnected heart, lung and brain – the genuine human articles – for some occupational show and tell that drew a steady crowd to his exhibit. The 74 year-old lung looked like an overcooked pot roast that not many had a taste for judging by the squeamish looks it was getting.

More cuddly was the booth from the DMPS Career & Tech Ed Institute’s FFA program that’s located right next door to McCombs on County Line Road. East junior Melissa Garcia Rodriguez, another McCombs alum who plans to be a large animal vet, had a bunny with her to go along with lots of pictures and stories about the rest of the district’s livestock operation.

“I thought I might like to be a vet someday,” Melissa said, “and the opportunity to do this FFA program in high school has just confirmed that decision for me.”

Across the room the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was regaling inquiring minds with otter and bobcat skins and the skull of a deer that was clearly a male because of those antler pedicles there and about six months old judging by the emergence of those teeth you see in the jawbone.

IBM was there and so was Iowa State University, the latter well-equipped with microscopes through which free samples could be observed of bacteria that resembled chocolate chip ice cream for dessert after a look at the pot roast lung.

Blank Park Zoo sent a rep and the Weitz Corporation assigned an engineer. A Des Moines Waterworks microbiologist was fielding inquiries, too.

“Everyone who’s here today was so glad to be a part of this,” said Victor. “And there were many others we approached who were extremely supportive but had conflicts with our date, so I’m excited and optimistic that we can expand this next year. I couldn’t be happier with how this is going in our first try.”

Neither could the students, never mind some of the expressions on the faces of kids getting their hands on hearts, lungs and brains in the flesh for the first time. The better barometer of their engagement was the pencils scribbling furiously on their reflection sheets as they made the rounds of the exhibitors.

A new STEM has most definitely sprouted at McCombs.

Photos of McCombs’ first annual STEM Career Day

DMPS-TV Report on the STEM Career Fair

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