A global shortage of qualified STEM professionals has been well pronounced for years, and research has found the next generation of young STEM professionals lack the skills needed to succeed in such jobs. 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. 

In support of this mission, WWT hosted 150 students from 16 St. Louis metro-area high schools at its fifth-annual STEM Student Forum on Feb. 29. The STEM Student Forum is a WWT initiative dedicated to educating high school students on the importance of STEM disciplines and the opportunities they present while also creating positive change in the metropolitan area.

In January, all participating teams were tasked with using technology to create a solution to improve their school community. Each team worked directly with a WWT mentor to provide guidance in STEM technical skills and leadership, beginning with an ideation session and developing their project over the following six weeks. The STEM Student Forum culminated with final presentations at WWT's global headquarters, as local students demonstrated their knowledge, creativity and innovation through hands-on activities.

"The STEM Student Forum is an important initiative for WWT. As we strive to educate and excite these future leaders around STEM principles and their value, it was exciting listen to each team present on their different projects," said Ann Marr, vice president, global human resources at WWT and one of judges for the event. "Each solution presented was unique, but with the common theme of helping support and improve the students' community."

A group of Edwardsville High School students created a digital ordering system for the Tiger Den – an on-campus coffee shop designed to help special education students develop vocational skills. This team was honored with the forum's $10,000 first prize to support the school's STEM programs and initiatives

As part of Edwardsville High School's special education curriculum, students prepare and sell café items to advance vocational skills and establish independence. The digital ordering system developed by the Student Hackathon team has already been implemented at the Tiger Den and helped streamlined operational processes and created efficiencies for students, teachers and staff. The system will also be implemented in the Tiger Den's second location at Lewis and Clark Community College's N. O. Nelson Campus in Edwardsville.

"It was incredible to watch this team unite around the Tiger Den and the special needs students of Edwardsville High School. They were dedicated to creating an innovative solution to support this cornerstone program in their school community," said Marc DeSantis, Director, Advanced Technology Center (ATC) Development at WWT and mentor to the Edwardsville High School hackathon team. "It was apparent these students were focused on developing a solution that would live beyond the STEM Student Forum and deliver tangible, lasting impact."

Hazelwood West High School was recognized with a $5,000 second place prize. The Fulton School at St. Albans received $2,500 for placing third. The remaining schools that participated walked away with $1,000. Honorable mention went to Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience. In all, WWT awarded more than $30,000 to local schools to advance STEM programs in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Participating schools:

  • Clayton High School
  • Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience
  • Edwardsville High School
  • Fort Zumwalt West High School
  • Hazelwood West High School
  • John Burroughs School
  • Lindbergh High School
  • Notre Dame High School, St. Louis
  • Pattonville High School
  • South Technical High School
  • St. Dominic High School
  • The Fulton School at St. Albans
  • Timberland High School
  • University City School District
  • Webster Groves High School
  • Whitfield School