Cultivating STEAM Talent

by Denise Molina-Weiger

Jump attracts the best and brightest students to its multitude of STEAM courses.

Employees with science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) skills are crucial for research and development, creating and adopting innovations, and working in technologically challenging jobs. In some fields, serious shortages of skilled manpower are projected. That’s the case in healthcare, where there’s expected to be a shortage of physicians, nurses and other clinicians over the next decade. 

“A 2011 study states that students are more likely to seek STEAM-related careers if they are introduced at an early age,” says Noël Adams, director of operations for Jump Simulation. “For OSF HealthCare, cultivating this talent begins in middle school.”

Jump Simulation, part of OSF Innovation, is working to unlock pathways to STEAM careers in a number of ways. This includes bringing different types of engineering into local schools, launching a variety of STEAM camps, and offering undergraduate students one-of-a-kind opportunities to experience medical school and the clinical environment.

Testing the Waters
Jump’s first foray into exposing children to STEAM-related topics began with a unique partnership in 2015. The center worked with St. Jude Catholic School in Peoria to bring engineers into the classroom to introduce engineering concepts to middle-school children. 

Jump engineers taught lessons on basic engineering principles, while students learned how to plan, design and build functioning prototypes and work in teams to develop medical solutions. Overall, they gained valuable knowledge on how engineering—paired with math, science, art and technology—is solving real-world problems. 

“The successful implementation of this project prompted us to expand this programming to the entire student community,” notes Adams.

STEAM Education for All
In early 2017, Jump launched half-day STEAM Saturdays and week-long summer STEAM camps designed to give sixth through 12th-grade students the chance to actively learn about everything from anatomy and physiology to medical visualization and engineering. 

The hands-on nature of the STEAM programming allows participants to dissect different parts of animal anatomy, respond to emergencies using high-fidelity manikins, create their own virtual reality experience, and even walk away receiving CPR certification. Hundreds of young people have participated in STEAM events at Jump. 

“We have been overwhelmed by the positive response of the community,” Adams explains. “Not only have we filled nearly all of the seats in these courses, but kids are enjoying the programming so much that they are returning for additional sessions.” 

 Jump’s work in STEAM education has attracted the philanthropy of area businesses. The PNC Foundation recently awarded the OSF HealthCare Foundation a $400,000 grant, with a portion allocated to expand the STEAM program to students who are also patients at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The money will also fund 1,000 student scholarships over the next five years for low-to-moderate-income students to attend STEAM courses at Jump.

Attracting STEAM Talent to Central Illinois
STEAM programming at Jump doesn’t end at high school. The simulation and innovation center also invites college students majoring in engineering fields, computer science, industrial design, medicine or biomedical visualization/medical illustration to apply for its prestigious and highly competitive summer internship program. 

“Those accepted into this program initially focused on the creation of healthcare simulators and other devices,” says Dr. John Vozenilek, vice president and chief medical officer of simulation at Jump. “However, our interns are now helping with larger projects for all of OSF Innovation.”

Jump summer interns are immersed in the clinical setting to identify gaps in training and conduct research on ways to fill those gaps; they are also joining professional teams working on everything from educational video game development to making a positive impact on readmission rates within OSF HealthCare.

“These young, bright, energetic students are contributing innovative ideas and a different thought process to solve complicated problems within the healthcare industry,” adds Vozenilek. “It’s an opportunity that I believe is producing leaders ready to take on the largest healthcare challenges.”

Jump also launched a two-week bioengineering immersion course, giving motivated undergraduates the chance to learn more about bioengineering and design within OSF HealthCare. Participants learn the basics of biodesign, computer-assisted design (CAD), three-dimensional modeling and 3D printing.

Along the way, students learn how to work as a team in a professional environment, build a project portfolio, and most importantly, contribute to improving healthcare.

Raising Awareness of Peoria Innovation
In the summer of 2017, Jump began offering a two-week experience to college students planning to attend medical school. Participants in this program are exposed to a range of clinical roles within OSF HealthCare and get a taste of the medical school experience. 

“The intent is to increase awareness of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria and its affiliation with our world-class simulation center,” says Vozenilek. “We have a shared interest in recruiting high-quality candidates to the region.” 

Students learn basic anatomy and physiology and receive Basic Life Support training and certification. They also practice interacting with patients, responding to emergency situations in different healthcare settings, and using virtual reality for clinical education and patient care. The course ends with a day’s worth of testing that includes reviving a patient, solving medical cases and stitching a variety of wounds. 

Jump hopes to continue attracting the best and brightest students in central Illinois to its multitude of STEAM courses. To register or learn more about upcoming Jump STEAM events, visit iBi

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