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Why I Chose STEM - Armando Quintero, 16

I was embarrassed. From time to time conversations came up about favorite shows that my friends were watching. None of them were into the show that I liked! After a while I stopped saying anything because they looked at me like I was weird. I felt weird. Because I wasn’t watching the shows they were watching I felt left out and had no idea what they were talking about. Okay, I’ll say it – my favorite show is American Pickers. It’s on the history channel. I’m 16 years old; even I wondered why I liked watching this show that’s about old stuff and old people. The show is about finding and buying original, vintage, and antique things. Two guys pick things like vintage signs, early bicycles, motorcycles, fans, and tin toys that are usually collectable. The more rust the more interesting the story! The old things are cool because each item has a history and a story to tell. Each item comes from an era that says something about how people lived at the time. Even if things were found in old barns decomposing slowly, they are physical records of the past. I look around to see how all of these things have evolved, only to wonder what they will look like in the future.

I often heard pretty awesome stories about familiar items that my grandfather stumbled upon at some point in his life. There was a cool story attached to each item that he was familiar with. I realized that I started watching the show with him. He could see this particular show again and again. He once saw an old toy on the show and told me that he was 10 years old when he saw that toy in the store for the very first time. Then he told me how long he had to work to get the toy. He remembered at 92 years old! His stories and all that he’s seen through the years have always intrigued me. Each item they find is usually a first version, one that set in motion futures versions that kept evolving. One version influenced the next, which means that one idea inspired the next big idea. Some evolutions have gotten worse, but other versions of things have become amazing and have changed the world.

What does all of this have to do with STEM? I went to a workshop where they talked about what STEM degrees are. The guest speakers talked about what they did in their field and how their work affected people in the real world. There was a tech developer, an engineer, and another speaker that was a biochemist. The engineer, who had my last name, said that he was working on a bridge in Central America that will help hard working people save time and energy. It will cut many hours of their travel time everyday. The tech developer said that he was working on a bicycle “the world has never seen before”. The lady who worked in the biology field said that her company focused on developing new cures for diseases. They’re all amazing because they’re working on projects that will change the world. They said many things, but I remember one the most. Toward the end, the engineer said, “STEM is the future. It’s about innovation and changing the world”

The presenters shared short bios and things they did when they’re away from work. I was surprised to see that the engineer’s bio said that his favorite show was American Pickers. I stayed behind to ask him why. He said that the show was just a simple pastime that reminded him of the many years that came before. As it related to STEM, he said that he liked the show because the past has shaped the present and will also shape the future. What comes next will depend on innovation. He said that people change things as they build them, but things also change people. He said that he was curious about building the future. That was so interesting to me because I also want to be a part of building that future. The future will happen, with or without me. I always wondered about what existed in the past, how it’s connected to the present time and how it will change in the future. I asked for his email and asked if I could ask him more questions later on. He said yes! The talk with him led to me reading about STEM majors online for several weeks.

I was glad to find out that my high school had a STEM program. I had tons of questions. I asked teachers, counselors, and started to follow many people on social media. I connected with many of them because I would like to know more about career options. I changed my classes and have become more motivated in school. The classes have been hard, but I don’t mind because I tinker with the idea that the past, present, and future are all connected. The future looks interesting to me because people get to build and create new things that will solve problems and change people forever. I’ve figured out that engineers get to create and build that future. My goal is life is to become an engineer. I look forward to creating history and making innovation happen. For now I’m looking forward to doing well in my classes so that I can apply to a good engineering university. And to think that it all started with a simple show I watched with my grandfather. I like the idea of studying something that I can create in the real world. I look forward to the future.

~ Armando Quintero

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