WOHS Chemistry Teacher Presents Study At Engineering Education Conference
Dr. Ronald Brandt, honors and AP Chemistry teacher at West Orange High School, was selected to present at the 122nd Annual American Society for Engineering Education Conference and Exposition held in Seattle, WA, June 14-17.
Brandt, recipient of the Hach Scientific Scholar award given by the American Chemical Society for his work as a high school chemistry teacher, spoke on the topic “Why Do Undergraduate Women Persist As STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Majors? A Study at Two Technological Universities.”
Brandt has been a long-time supporter in encouraging women to consider careers in the fields of science and technology and West Orange High School has seen an increase in the number of females pursuing math, physics, chemistry, and engineering majors in college.
He is the National Science Honor Society advisor at WOHS and organizes several special sessions with successful female engineers and technology professionals throughout the year.
Brandt had much to say about his experiences at the conference.
“It was exciting and motivating to participate in a national conference with well over 1,000 participants and more than 400 technical sessions dedicated to improving technology education at all levels of schooling,” he began. “The day prior to the start of the Conference I participated in a full day workshop focused on creating engaging projects for integrating technology education in elementary grades through high school.
“I brought home many ideas and have already shared them with colleagues at the high school. It was also very encouraging for me to meet so many people sharing my strong personal interest in increasing the participation of women and minority students in STEM education and careers.”
Brandt left a successful career in the chemistry industry to pursue degrees in education to teach high school students. He holds a bachelor’s in engineering from Cooper Union, a master’s of business administration from Rutgers University, and a master’s of education from Seton Hall University.
Brandt’s presentation was based on research at two NJ technological universities.
While 50 percent of the nation’s workforce is comprised of women, only 25 percent of STEM careers are held by women. The more opportunities and interest shown by females at the middle school level and young women deciding to pursue careers in STEM by their sophomore or junior year in high school had a higher rate of success in persisting in their career choice. This also included the importance of self-confidence in attaining their goals and the expectation that they may have to deal with some form of bias in the process.
Additionally, cultural challenges presented the greatest obstacles, and not academic. Self-confidence, STEM being seen as a “Man’s World,” lack of support from family, friends and teachers, and women seeking careers offering strong social impact, like medicine over engineering, were considered hindrances to increasing the number of women in STEM fields.
Recommendations to increase the number of women in STEM careers included the introduction of more lab work and completion of Algebra I for seventh and eighth grade students; create an environment for high school students to meet female STEM professionals; expose them to the positive social impact a career in STEM can bring; and introduce STEM peer groups at the college level.
“We have been very fortunate at WOHS that many of our top female and minority students graduate from our school and enter their university studies with the intention to major in science, math and engineering based careers,” Brandt said.
“They leave West Orange well prepared for the rigorous course work expected in college STEM studies and the personal self confidence and vision to succeed. I received many compliments on my own presentation and appreciation for what we are doing in our school district.”
To read Brandt’s paper given at the ASEE Conference and Exposition, go to: https://www.asee.org/public/conferences/56/papers/11157/view.