Marion High student branches out at STEM gathering

Brandon Nguyen: “I used to want to be a medical doctor, but then I changed my mind toward engineering because that really interested me.” While most high school students look forward to summer vacation and a break from studies, Marion High School student Bran­don Nguyen invested three days and family funds to pursue his interest in an engineering future.

The junior-to-be flew to Massachusetts to participate in the National Academy of Future Scientists and Tech­nologists, an annual gathering for students interested in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The June 29 to July 1 event exposes participants to presentations and lectures from leaders and practitioners in STEM fields.

“Most of the time was spent listening to speakers, scientists and mathematicians,” Nguyen said. “Then afterward we’d get to meet them during lunch and dinner and interview them.

“It’s very interesting, especially how people got there,” he added. “There were actually speakers my age who had done some amazing stuff. It just inspired me to go out and try to research something I’m interested in.”

Nguyen said his interest in STEM classes grew this past school year while taking the engineering class at MHS taught by Randy Skiles.

“I used to want to be a medical doctor, but then I changed my mind toward engineering because that really interested me,” he said.

“I mostly like it because of the challenges,” he added. “It makes my brain do critical thinking. I work through problems and find a solution.”

Nguyen said he became aware of the NAFST gathering when a letter from the organization arrived at his home.

“I looked at their website and it seemed pretty cool,” he said. “I read the pamphlet they gave me, and it seemed like a pretty cool thing to go to.”

He said participants have to be recommended by somebody else, such as past participants or a teacher. Nguyen said he doesn’t know who recommended him.

Participants pay their own way, including the transportation to get there.

“It’s pretty high priced flying there,” he said. “I couldn’t have any parents with me, so I had to pay for the overnight program, which let us stay on the college campus.”

Nguyen said he shared a dorm room with four other males; most came from the Midwest, but one came from the Dominican Republic.

“It reaches pretty far,” Nguyen said of the organization. He said participating in this gathering will benefit him as he considers his educational future.

“I would recommend it if (students) are looking toward that specific area for their career,” Nguyen said. “It will help you learn more about the field, and it will help you learn how other people got into it.

“They show courses you can take online and you can apply for scholarships by going there and taking those courses, which will help you through college.”

Nguyen said he hasn’t selected a college yet, but he is more committed than ever to a future in STEM fields.

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