Seven-year-old Stellan Matzke and 11-year-old Keller Matzke try out augmented reality technology at Bath Iron Works’ exhibit on STEM night at Bath Middle School. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

BATH — Bath Middle School was steeped in science Wednesday in hopes that more of students would be driven toward careers in science, technology, engineering or math, as part of Regional School Unit 1’s first STEM night, hosted by The Bath Elementary Parent-Teacher Association.

STEM jobs are among the fastest-growing in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found that full-time STEM workers earn typically  $54,745, which is 26% more compared to a similarly educated non-STEM worker.

In Maine, one in seven new jobs are expected to be in STEM-related fields, but the state has lagged behind the nation in preparing graduates for those fields.

In 2014, Maine ranked 44th nationally in college graduates employed in STEM occupations, according to the University of Southern Maine.

At the school, dozens of students and parents wandered through the various exhibits, trying out new technologies and seeing applied sciences first hand. In the Bath Iron Works sections, students were trying out virtual reality goggles, trying on an exoskeleton and learning about 3D printing.

“It was just so eye-opening to watch an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old play and learn at the same time,” said Karen D’Silva, Bath Elementary PTA vice president.


The school was packed with local organizations hosting science and technology stations. At one end of the school’s gym, Bath Iron Works had set up several stations demonstrating technology that the shipyard uses or plans to use in the future. While one employee helped people try out an exoskeleton that helps people with mobility, another employee showed students how to use augmented reality headset. Nearby, folks from the University of Maine conducted science demonstrations, and in the far corner, a Maine Maritime Museum employee helped students examine a live lobster with a microscope. Over in the cafeteria, students bent planks with steam with the help of Maine’s First Ship or learned about Lego robotics.

“It was fun! I saw a cat and a hamster and a chimpanzee,” said 7-year-old Stellan Matzke, a first-grade student who was trying Bath Iron Work’s augmented reality headset. “The only thing I could do with them was pick them up.”

There were no cats, chimpanzees or hamsters visible in the auditorium, and it was presumed that they were programmed into the augmented reality headset.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for exposure to things you might see in the world and avenues that may become professions in the future,” said his mother, Sarah Matzke. “We want the students to see what the opportunities are and what we do with science, technology and math so that they can get excited about it–as excited as we are,” said Friedman. “We want to hire as locally as possible, so we want to reach out to the community…and hopefully get some of them excited in an education in advanced maths and a career in engineering.”

D’Silva said that she hopes similar events will take place in Bath in the future.

“It’s really about bringing the community together,” she said. “It’s not just about fun, it’s about creating a community that has a lot to offer.”

Five-year-old Grady Herson experiences electricity with the help of University of Maine representatives. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

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