Hooked on STEM

| Rebecca Yost
A group of students look at exoskeleton technology worn by a state Department of Labor & Industries employee.

Students get an up-close look at an exoskeleton device to reduce worker injuries worn by Rick Goggins, an ergonomist with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Photo: Rebecca Yost.

“Iron Man” technology helps teens connect to new career options through a partnership between DEOHS and Highline Public Schools

What’s the best way to get young women hooked on a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM)? Iron Man, of course.

Students in Highline Public Schools south of Seattle recently got an up-close look at new exoskeleton technology designed to reduce musculoskeletal risk factors for workers.

The event was part of an ongoing partnership between the school district and the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS).

Students at the district’s annual STEM Fest took measurements to calculate how effective the technology was in reducing muscle strain for workers performing overhead work.

“I could see this technology being helpful for my dad,” one student said. “He works in painting and roofing. He does a lot of work with his arms raised above his head and complains of getting tired.”

Connecting science and social justice

Nancy Simcox, DEOHS lecturer and director of Continuing Education programs, worked with DEOHS staff member Sarah Wolz and partners from the state Department of Labor & Industries to encourage young women to consider how a STEM career might allow them to design similar innovations.

“Examining the intersection of science and social justice is a powerful way for students to be inspired to pursue a career in STEM, and because of [our] phenomenal partners, ... students can realize it is an option for them, too,” Michelle Thomassian of Highline Public Schools.

Read more about the STEM Fest event here.


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