Herkimer BOCES School to Careers event introduces students to local STEAM professionals
Nov. 20, 2018
Students from Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES component school districts listen to comments from School to Careers career exploration/development specialist Rebecca Roberts during the Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.
HERKIMER – One way to grasp the power of exponential change – such as what we’re currently experiencing with technological advancements – is to start by picturing a grain of rice sitting on a chess board.
That’s the example used recently by Dr. Bryant Wysocki, chief engineer of the Information Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego School to Careers Fall Career Inspirational Experience.
If you take the single grain of rice on one of the 64 spaces of a chess board and then double the amount of rice on each of the spaces on the board, you end up with so much rice that it would fill enough train cars to circle the earth at the equator 950 times, Wysocki said.
“That’s the world you’re inheriting,” he said. “We live in an exponential time.”
The Fall Career Inspirational Experience took place on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer. Students in grades 10-12 from Herkimer BOCES component school districts attended the event, which was put on by the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers program.
The Fall Career Inspirational Experience is an evolution of previous School to Careers events at Herkimer BOCES. STC now hosts a Fall Career Inspirational Experience and Spring Career Inspirational Experience – with a theme for each event. This year’s fall focus was science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, so the day was labeled as the STEAM Career Experience.
In addition to hearing Wysocki’s keynote speech and comments from Herkimer BOCES officials, students in attendance also rotated among four breakout sessions with other guest speakers:
- Andrew Pustay, a partner at Precisionmatics, a Computer Numerical Control machine shop that specializes in manufacturing aerospace parts, where he is in charge of all safety compliances at the state and federal level.
- Erin Costello, a production support engineer at Danfoss Silicon Power LLC in Utica, where she maintains equipment and manufacturing processes for building power modules and failure mode analysis.
- Dr. Marcus Pendleton, a research computer scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, where he investigates various areas of cybersecurity.
- Amber Geary, the museum educator and docent program supervisor at the Wellin Museum.
When welcoming students to the STEAM Career Experience, Rebecca Roberts, the STC career exploration/development specialist, encouraged them to use the event to prepare for their futures.
“I hope that you keep an open mind and that you learn some things that you can apply to your own career path,” she said.
During the keynote speech, Wysocki commended students for going the extra mile to attend the STEAM Career Experience.
“You’ve already taken the steps to separate yourself from your peers,” he said.
Wysocki continued to explain the power of exponential change. He said that if one computer bit is represented by a single playing card, then a terabyte is so many bits that if you stacked up the representative playing cards for how many bits are in a terabyte, the cards would reach the moon – five times.
This type of change is playing out with technology – such as the rapid updates to iPhones, Wysocki said.
“We’re in a time that’s changing exponentially,” he said.
Such change has a major impact on businesses, Wysocki said. For example, not that many years ago, businesses that produce computers, global-positioning satellite devices, cameras, flashlights and video games wouldn’t have expected competition from the phone industry, he said.
Wysocki said he didn’t have good grades in high school, and he explained his career path through the Air Force. He said he would have gotten into science sooner if someone had explained to him that science could be such a “blast.”
The future of science includes moving atoms, altering genes, gravity waves, additive manufacturing, an increased focus on cybersecurity and more, Wysocki said.
As the technology expands, this generation will be dictating how it goes and how it changes the world, he said, to the students.
“You can play a big part in that,” he said.
During the breakout sessions, guest speakers discussed their career paths, explained their current jobs, provided advice to students and took questions.
Pustay told students that they’re in a great time of their lives for figuring out what they want to do. He knew from an early age that he wanted to go into manufacturing. Technology/manufacturing jobs are a “hidden gem” right now, and it’s kind of “sad” how many job openings there are, he said.
“To expose you to this hidden gem is what I’m here to do today,” he said.
In addition to talking with the students, Pustay showed a video about what manufacturing means to different people and one about how a bolt is made from design to implementation.
Pustay said that at his job, you’re not limited to one role such as working on parts or answering a phone.
“It’s a team of people,” he said.
‘Your career path’
Costello spoke about taking on various jobs along her career path – including being a manager at McDonald’s, becoming a teaching assistant and working at Indium Corp., before her current job.
“There’s going to be a lot of things you like and don’t like along your career path,” she said. “Chances are it’s not going to be a straight line, which is fine.”
Costello provided other advice such as the importance of networking and learning essential skills for the workplace.
It’s important to find enjoyment in your work, Costello said.
“I do what I do because I love it,” she said. “I know they say, ‘If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.’ No, I love what I do, but there is still a lot of work that goes into it.”
‘Touch a satellite’
Pendleton told students that he got into the technology field because he wanted to create video games. He went into computer engineering and computer science, and when he joined the Air Force, he ended up flying airplanes.
His passion remained in software, so he went back and got a master’s degree and doctorate.
He enjoys his current job because he has a lot of autonomy and flexibility, travels to conferences and gets to work on big projects.
“I never thought I would touch a satellite – let alone putting software that I wrote on it,” he said.
Another early inspiration for him was Robocop, and it led him to take apart his mother’s cassette player in an unsuccessful attempt at building his own Robocop, he said.
“It kind of got my mind going,” he said.
Pendleton said he wasn’t the best high-school student, but his strong interest in technology made up for it. He also talked to students about his mentors and about obstacles he overcame.
“I’d say the biggest challenge I faced was self-doubt,” he said.
When doubting himself, he dove in, did the work and overcame the doubt through small victories, he said.
‘The A in STEAM’
Geary told students she had a specific role in the day’s event.
“I put the A in STEAM,” she said. “I represent the arts.”
Geary spoke to students about her job at the Wellin Museum – including training docents, working primarily with kindergarten to 12th grade and also working with community groups and colleges.
“I love to do it,” she said.
Geary started off with an interest in being an archaeologist or a writer. When deciding on college, she focused on becoming a graphic designer. She earned an associate degree in graphic design and a bachelor’s degree in visual communications, and she was the first person in her family to get a college degree, she said.
She worked in graphic design, and then she decided to get her master’s degree at Syracuse University in order to become an art teacher and worked for a time as an art teacher.
Her winding career path led her to where she is now – in a job that combines aspects of all her various career interests, she said.
She doesn’t regret any of her college degrees, and she told students that attending a college or trade school is important for many jobs.
“You can always fall back on it,” she said.
‘A growth mindset’
At the end of the STEAM Career Experience, all of the students and breakout session speakers gathered back together for some wrap up.
MaryBeth Napolitano, STC liaison and work-based learning coordinator, said she hopes the event helped inspire some students to go into a STEAM career field. She advised students to learn every day and continuously challenge themselves.
“Make sure you allow yourself to always be in a growth mindset,” she said.
Each of the breakout session speakers then provided closing comments.
Pustay provided more advice for students – including not to let anyone tell them they can’t do something.
“Anything you want to do, go for it,” he said. “The sky is the limit. I think you’re your own limit.”
Costello summarized some of the previous advice she spoke about during her session.
“Be who you are, know your strengths and weaknesses, and life doesn’t move in a straight line,” she said.
Pendleton also shared some final thoughts with students.
“A technical background opens up so many doors,” he said. “Don’t worry about bumps in the road.”
Geary encouraged students to consider various career possibilities.
“I really hope you all keep an open mind when it comes to what your next steps are,” she said.
Herkimer BOCES Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Laurie Hedges then provided some closing comments about the importance of resilience and perseverance.
“Fall down seven times and get up eight, and you’ll get there,” Hedges said. “Be resourceful and be resilient, and you’ll make us proud. Good luck.”
Dr. Bryant Wysocki, chief engineer of the Information Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, gives the keynote speech to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program’s Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer:
Andrew Pustay, a partner at Precisionmatics, a Computer Numerical Control machine shop that specializes in manufacturing aerospace parts, speaks to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program’s Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer:
Erin Costello, a production support engineer at Danfoss Silicon Power LLC in Utica, speaks to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program’s Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer:
Dr. Marcus Pendleton, a research computer scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, speaks to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program’s Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer:
Amber Geary, the museum educator and docent program supervisor at the Wellin Museum, speaks to local students during the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES School to Careers program’s Fall Career Inspirational Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer: