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From the classroom to the real world: Bioscience students preview STEM jobs and careers

by Taylor Costello
Education Phoenix Community Alliance Taylor Costello July 5, 2023

Phoenix Bioscience High School students who attended Center For Entrepreneurial Innovation’s (CEI) Bioscience Summer Camp got a preview of careers they have spent their entire high school education studying.

In June, the students took a series of tours to jobs so they could apply their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

The bioscience students observed and met professionals applying their skills in different venues, from workshops, construction sites, and medical facilities.

“This is an incredible way for us to showcase all of the fulfilling careers in STEAM in Downtown Phoenix,” said Carly Figman-Feinberg, CEI’s LabForce Community Engagement Coordinator. “Many have now expressed wanting to enter careers in this arena, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”

The Bioscience High School Campers and staff from Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI), Downtown Phoenix, Inc., and Phoenix Community Alliance pose after a tour of The Global Ambassador, pictured June 6, 2023. (Photo by the Okland Construction)

CEI and Wexford Science + Technology, in partnership with Flinn Foundation, brought back Bioscience Summer Camp after a successful debut in 2022. During their week of field trips, they hosted the campers at their location on the first floor of Wexford’s 850 PBC.

CEI was created in partnership with GateWay Community College and the Maricopa County Community College District in 2013 to spur innovation in the bioscience industry. They opened their first entrepreneur incubator, CEI Lab Force, at Wexford Science + Technology in 2021.

The students traveled throughout Downtown and across the Valley to explore the jobs of many CEI partners, including the University of Arizona Health Sciences in Downtown Phoenix, Northern Arizona University-Phoenix Bioscience Core, Okland Construction, and Arizona State University Venture Devils.

CEI transported students to Snood City Neon Studio’s Grand Avenue facilities early in the week. They watched the molding of glass used in neon and how chemistry made these vivid designs come alive.

On the second day, a Copper Star Transportation charter bus took them to the site of The Global Ambassador, a 200,000 square foot luxury hotel in the heart of Arcadia.

The campers received an in-depth tour of the hotel from Okland Construction, the construction company tasked to make it a reality. Students saw engineers, electricians, and other contractors in future hotel suites, ballrooms, and entertainment spaces.

For Okland, the trip presented more than an opportunity to observe construction but also how shared core values and processes create a remarkable “wow” experience.

“For The Global Ambassador project, this was Okland’s first time opening a site walk to high school students,” said Cara Rauschenberger, Okland Construction’s Senior Project Engineer. “In most instances, site walks are reserved for the ownership and construction teams.”

Throughout their week with CEI, the students made stops minutes away throughout the Phoenix Bioscience Core and even within the walls of 850 PBC.

Trips to the NAU and UArizona revealed the fundamentals of patient care by physicians, such as differentiating between regular heartbeats and murmurs, checking the pupils to assess head injuries, and treating cardiac arrest using a simulation.

“It was amazing all the things we were able to see in such a short period of time, and I enjoyed how interactive it was,” said Luis Hernandez, a second-year camper and soon-to-be intern for CEI.

Cara Rauschenberger gives the bioscience campers a tour of one of the restaurants on The Global Ambassador property. (Photo by Okland Construction)

The impact of this immersive experience extends beyond the length of the summer camp.

The camp has served as a pipeline for students, allowing them to be hired as interns, and Hernandez is the perfect example of a student who was recruited through the Bioscience High School internship program and was ultimately hired through the program.

Overall, three students interned, while another former camper works for Wexford Science + Technology at another location.

In their lab space at Connect Labs by Wexford, they operate a Laboratory Technical Program to provide skillsets and applications to aspiring lab technicians. Everyone who is presently enrolled are either current or past campers.

The end goal of this hybrid eight-week program is to provide enough technical knowledge to take their Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam (BASE), an industry-recognized test.

Whether in a lab setting or at a construction site, STEM has more than one career relevance where the scientific process of problem-solving is especially valuable in real-life settings.

“The four focuses of STEM allow students to develop mental habits that can be applied to any field,” said Rauschenberger. “It is easy to see how as students develop soft skills like critical thinking through STEM activities and lessons where it comes naturally, they can help gain the skills they need to set themselves apart from other applicants later.”