Guest column: Using computing to solve big problems
By Johlesa Orm, for the Renton Reporter
When I started high school, I knew I wanted to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. I decided to start with the robotics club, one of the best STEM programs at my school, Lindbergh High School. While the electrical engineering component of the club I participated in during 9th grade didn’t click with me, the computer problem solving element did. I decided to test my new interest by taking AP Computer Science in 10th grade. This is the path I am on today.
Throughout high school, I have taken advantage of as many STEM and computer science opportunities as I could. I’ve even created some of my own. Some friends and I started a club for girls to learn new coding languages and practice our skills. About 10 of us meet every two weeks. I am also taking an advanced manufacturing course called Core Plus Aerospace, which I decided to take to see how I could apply computer science in different ways. It’s the application of my chosen field to solving big problems that interests me the most. This fall, I will be studying computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the goal of applying my skills and knowledge to find solutions to challenging problems in civil engineering or medicine, such as using technology to support fatigued physicians.
I was recently honored for my commitment to a STEM career during Washington State’s STEM Sign Day, presented by Boeing. The virtual event celebrated 49 high school students from across the state for our choices to pursue STEM education in technical programs, two- and four-year colleges and universities. Just like signing days for the athletes, we all signed a letter of commitment to our STEM goals. As seniors whose high school careers were interrupted by the pandemic, it feels even more exciting to be recognized for our perseverance and academic achievements.
Why honor STEM students? On the one hand, the world needs us much more. The future of our particular state depends on more students having opportunities to explore and succeed in STEM-related careers, from nursing and engineering to cybersecurity and computer science, fields that my fellow honorees are pursuing. According to the Washington Roundtable, an organization of CEOs and senior executives from across our state, employers will produce 373,000 net jobs here over the next five years alone. Most of these jobs will require a high school credential, and undoubtedly a large percentage will be in STEM fields. The opportunities are out there waiting for us in Washington. As students and future workers, we just have to prepare for them.
If you’re a middle school or high school student interested in STEM, take a lot of math classes, but don’t forget language arts—it helps with thinking skills. Always challenge yourself, do your homework, and take advantage of unique real-world learning experiences! Our communities and our state depend on our hard work, skills and passion for a bright future.
Johlesa Orm is a senior at Charles A. Lindbergh High School in Renton. He plans to study computer science at MIT in the fall.