San Jacinto College hosted over 4,500 middle school students, teachers and community members at the fourth annual “Adventures in STEM” festival in Pasadena, Texas on March 8-9, 2018. But this is a Michigan Tech blog, so why are we covering news from a college campus 1500 miles south of Houghton?
Since 2015, Michigan Tech has partnered closely with San Jacinto College and local industry to provide thousands of Houston-area youth with opportunities to experience and engage in dynamic STEM activities through hands-on immersion. The collaboration was kindled by a long-standing established partner of both institutions: The Dow Chemical Company. Dow, who has been a supporter of Michigan Tech’s Mind Trekkers since 2013, suggested the success of the Dow Great Lakes Bay STEM Festival held at Delta College would be a good fit in the Houston area. Rob Vallentine, then Global Director of STEM Education and Director of North America Sites Public Affairs, connected Mind Trekkers with Dow’s Houston operations, who identified San Jacinto College as an optimal host for the collaboration.
Four years later, this partnership has reached over 25,000 Houston-area youth, with the annual festival offered in the early weeks of March on San Jacinto College’s Central Campus. In both 2015 and 2016, Mind Trekkers brought down more than 50 Michigan Tech undergraduate student volunteers on Spring Break to anchor the event with activities and demonstrations, as well as provide the spark and energy required to put on a STEM festival. In 2017, Mind Trekkers sent a crew of 15 students and staff with a new mission: begin building a blueprint for San Jacinto College to sustain the event long into the future while Michigan Tech cultivates new partnerships across the country. Prior to the festival, volunteers spent a week constructing over 50 activities that would remain in Houston, and dialogue began on what a spinoff of the Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers model might look like at San Jacinto College. Which brings us to 2018, wherein San Jacinto College produced the event on their own, with only three Michigan Tech students and staff attending to offer support and assistance. The San Jacinto College Mind Trekkers launch was a successful event which we hope we can continue to replicate in other communities.
The evolution of the event and partnership has been a pillar of pride for both San Jacinto College and Michigan Tech, and none of it would have been possible without the industry engagement and support provided by the likes of Dow, Chevron Phillips, LyondellBasell, Ineos, Lubrizol, East Harris County Manufacturers Association, and many others that are invested in the Houston-area community.