SCI Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals of all ages come to explore science and technology.

To continue the learning outside our building, we bring you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities, in-depth information about science events and STEM connections in the Des Moines area.

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  • STEM in DSM: Collaborative program guides students from college to career

    When Drake University sophomore Southenary Macvilay was a student at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, she developed an interest in math careers but didn’t know where to start exploring her options. Teachers encouraged Macvilay to pursue a college career, but it wasn’t until she arrived at Drake that she realized her passion for accounting.

    “When I was in high school, I wasn’t even thinking, ‘What am I going to do after high school? I don’t know. Work?’ Macvilay said. “I didn’t think college was a big deal until many of my teachers started talking to me about my plans after graduation. They saw a lot of potential in me, and they started saying, ‘You can do this. You can do this. You can do this.’”

    Today, Macvilay strives to instill that same sense of belief in students at Des Moines Roosevelt High School as a mentor in the new STEM Explorers program.

    Three major institutions unite in pilot initiative

    The cutting-edge partnership among three premier Des Moines institutions is paving the way for a new kind of student bond. Building relationships is at the core of STEM Explorers, which creates a college-to-career pathway for Des Moines high school students.

    Drake students who are in high-level math majors mentor Des Moines high school students who demonstrate talent and interest in science, technology, engineering and math. The high school students will later be considered for admission to Drake.

    While exploring a variety of math careers at Drake, students will receive priority consideration for paid internships at Principal Financial Group. The program culminates in priority consideration for full-time positions at The Principal after graduation from Drake.

    STEM Explorers helps students navigate college-to-career path

    Every other week, Macvilay and a team of STEM Explorers mentors visit Roosevelt, where they introduce students to opportunities available at Drake and encourage them to join the Bulldog family.

    “We’re all there for the same reason, to tell them, ‘College is a big deal, and you should go. You are skilled and you can do it,’” Macvilay said. “That’s the most important thing, to get them there.”

    Macvilay acknowledges that the path to college, much like building a mentor relationship, is a process. That’s why the STEM Explorers program is designed to support students long-term, providing guidance from high school to college all the way to the professional world.

    Continued support is top priority for program mentors

    A lasting bond means a greater chance high school students will complete the one-of-a-kind program.

    “Over the course of two, three or four years, I think the stronger the relationship, the more goal-driven students will be and the more willing they’ll be to accomplish those goals,” Macvilay said.

    The program is in its pilot year, but Macvilay said she’s already optimistic about its role as a catalyst for STEM growth in the Des Moines metro.

    “I’m so excited to be in this program, honestly. I feel like this program has a lot of potential, especially for the growing city of Des Moines,” Macvilay said. “The goal of this program was to get students to go to Drake and to end up working in the city of Des Moines, to help it grow and keep it stable. Beyond that, it’ll connect people and build a bond that’s not typical.”

  • SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get to know K.O. Myers

    For SCI volunteer K.O. Myers, the telescope isn’t solely a gateway to the galaxies… It’s a gateway to wonder and scientific literacy right here on Earth.

    Though he enjoys exploring the Moon, Venus and Mars, Myers is more captivated by the "a-ha!" moments that define SCI’s Star Party experience.

    “I really find it rewarding when people see something for the first time and it captures their imagination,” Myers said. “We talk about the 'a-ha!' moment. For those of us on the Star Party crew, we really get the joy of helping people have that experience.”

    Those little moments of wonder ignite interest in science and motivate Myers to continue volunteering at Star Parties. He joined SCI’s volunteer team in 2012 and has honed his own astronomy skills along the way.

    Myers’ Star Party specialty is the history and structure of the Moon. While he enjoys pointing out specific craters, planets and constellations, Myers’ top priority is creating a space for scientific discovery.

    “Children are naturally inquisitive, and I think it’s even less about encouraging them to be interested in science but just not discouraging them. They start from a place of curiosity and wonder and interest,” Myers said. “Any opportunity we have to reinforce, encourage and nurture that is great.”

    Myers said Star Parties provide the ideal opportunity for outreach, thanks to their location outside and in the community. SCI hosts Star Parties at Ewing Park in partnership with the Des Moines Astronomical Society.

    Veteran astronomers and first-time star-gazers alike develop their telescope skills in the welcoming environment.

    “I like the camaraderie of the small group,” Myers said. “There’s a core group of us that are really excited about the sky.”

    Myers said he hopes to invite more SCI volunteers into that core group.

    “If you’re looking for an experience where you’ll get to meet people who are engaged and interested and passionate about science, there’s no better way to do that than volunteer at SCI,” Myers said.