Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan students receive first-hand introduction to booming STEM profession
21, Dec, 2023
EDMONTON, Dec. 21, 2023 – Earlier this week, more than a dozen students from schools in Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan acquired STEM skills at a day camp designed to give them a hands-on introduction to the diverse and opportunity-abundant engineering technology profession.
Presented by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), the STEM Camp Series day camp took place at NAIT on Dec. 18 with an emphasis on one of the 21 engineering technology disciplines: instrumentation engineering technology. Participating schools were Ardrossan Junior Senior High School, Bev Facey Community High School, Fort Saskatchewan Senior High School, Salisbury Composite High School, and Strathcona Christian Academy Secondary.
The ASET STEM Camp Series is geared to help address a nationally recognized STEM skills shortage. ASET is partnering with school boards to offer day camps in association with Alberta’s polytechnics/technical colleges.
The Dec. 18 day camp at NAIT featured a morning and afternoon session, each with a focus on measurement and control systems. Both session projects involved a sensor, controller, computer software to run the controller, and an interactive display to show the measured/controlled values. A smartphone served as the interactive display for the morning session and a computer monitor for the afternoon session.
In the morning session, students were taught how to wire and program a microchip. This included wiring three sensors: barometric pressure, temperature and altitude sensor, distance sensor, and capacitive soil moisture sensor. They also wired an OLED module display. Once the wiring was finished, they used Arduino software to download a program to their microchips. They calibrated the capacitive soil moisture sensor to give the correct readings on their display, and inserted the sensor into a potted plant to read the moisture in the soil. Through a web browser on their smartphones, they were able to see a display of the moisture reading.
In the afternoon, students worked on a level measurement and control system, utilizing the Bubbler method and learning about the principle of operation for this pressure-based level measurement system. They completed electrical and pneumatic connections and configured an industrial pressure transmitter for level measurement. They applied science and math to predict the level in a tank, employed software to configure an industrial controller for automatic operation, and tested the level control system functionality in manual and automatic mode.
In between sessions, students were instructed on the difference between the engineering technology and engineering professions, and the many disciplines and occupations that exist within engineering technology.
“Because STEM skills are so highly in demand in Canada, giving junior high and high school students first-hand exposure to the engineering technology profession - through ASET’s STEM Camp Series - is a vital step forward in helping meet that demand,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh. “Equally important is offering young people concrete motivation to enter an exciting and well-remunerated profession.”
A recent study signalled the urgency of attracting more Canadians to STEM careers, including youth poised to enter post-secondary education. Last year, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report called The Knowledge Gap, which indicated that Canada faces a significant digital and STEM skills shortage due to the aging population and rapid digitalization across the economy - a reality further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unresolved, these skill shortages will have a negative impact on Canadian businesses and the economy. One of the report’s recommendations was to increase STEM enrolment and graduation numbers by raising students’ performance in STEM subjects.
According to ASET’s 2022 Salary Survey, instrumentation engineering technologists starting their careers as technologists-in-training (TTs) command an average annual salary of approximately $66,542. TTs are graduates of polytechnics/technical colleges, have engineering technology diplomas, and are registered with ASET and in the process of accumulating the necessary field experience to earn their designations as certified engineering technologists (CETs).
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 17,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET