World Wide Technology on Feb. 23 hosted nearly 200 St. Louis-area high school students at its fourth-annual STEM Student Forum, an event designed to get more young people engaged in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.

The Forum began in January with an ideation session where students from 19 area high schools were tasked with using technology to solve a community or school problem. Each team was paired with a WWT employee to help mentor them through the process. Final presentations were held at WWT's global headquarters in St. Louis.

Final projects included initiatives to use facial recognition to detect unhappy students and sensors to help visually-impaired students navigate hallways to ride-sharing services for students looking to carpool and rewarding students with points redeemable at local businesses for staying off their phones during school hours.

"Year after year, these students continue to inspire with their unique and innovative approaches to solving problems in their schools and community," said Bob Olwig, vice president of corporate business development at WWT and one of four judges for the event. "WWT is passionate about growing the number of young people pursuing careers in STEM. Our hope is by engaging and encouraging them early on, we can help make a difference in their passion for STEM-related activities."

A group of Pattonville High School students that overhauled a supply closet for students in need were honored with the Forum's $10,000 first prize.

The students said the closet was unorganized and inefficiently operated before they sought to reinvent it. Their solution involved building a website that:

  • Provided a detailed list of supplies available to students;
  • Offered students and faculty a way to request or donate certain items;
  • Afforded students utilizing the closet a more anonymous experience as to avoid any stigma associated with it;
  • Better marketed the resource to students, faculty and broader school community.

Students on the team were Yasaman Mostafavi, Eli Card, Sam Vaclavik, Jacob Wilfong, William Skaggs and Kyle Wright.

"The problem was there was so much available through the school, but not a lot of people were taking advantage of it," Mostafavi said. "We felt like the closet would have the most school impact and the potential to branch out to other schools in the future."

Ashland Tate, an operations manager for WWT who mentored the Pattonville team, said he came away from the process blown away with how quickly the team worked to implement technology into their solution.

"These are really smart kids that I learned a lot from," he said. "There's a big organizational piece to this, and a lot of these students are involved with other clubs or activities, so their schedules are tight. My role was to come in for an hour or two each week to help act as a center point, so they knew what their next steps might be."

The judges were particularly impressed with how the Pattonville team's solution built upon an existing offering and amplified its ability to serve the community.

Incarnate Word Academy was recognized with a $5,000 second place prize. MICDS (Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School) received $2,500 for placing third. And Jennings High Senior High School was named an honorable mention awardee. Each participating school walked away with $1,000.

Nearly 200 students from St. Louis-area high schools participated in World Wide Technology's fourth annual STEM Student Forum on Feb. 23 in St. Louis.

In all, WWT awarded more than $30,000 to local schools to help improve their STEM programs.

Participating schools:

  • Brentwood High School
  • Christian Brothers College High School
  • Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience
  • Duchesne High School
  • Incarnate Word Academy
  • Jennings Senior High School
  • Lindbergh High School
  • MICDS (Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School)
  • Nerinx Hall High School
  • North Technical High School
  • Parkway Central High School
  • Pattonville High School
  • Rosati-Kain High School
  • St. Joseph's Academy
  • St. Louis University High School
  • Triad High School
  • Trinity Catholic High School
  • Ursuline Academy
  • Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School

A global shortage of qualified STEM professionals has been well pronounced for years. Research from STEMconnector, a Washington, D.C.-based professional services firm seeking to increase the number of STEM-ready workers in the global talent pool, found the next generation of young STEM professionals lack the skills needed to succeed in such jobs and not enough young people are seeking college degrees to get their foot in the door.

WWT employs thousands of professionals in the STEM fields and believes the disciplines to be critical in supporting the future of technological and scientific breakthroughs that will benefit the world.

WWT remains involved with several organizations aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, such as the BEYA STEM Conference; NPower, which creates pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities; the National Academy Foundation (NAF) to promote interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) related fields; the Global Leadership Forum, which seeks to increase the number of diverse technologists in the talent pipeline; or the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls to help enable diverse women leaders.