Five powerful panels featuring STEM leaders with ties to the SCH community spoke to our Upper School science students as part of the 20th anniversary of robotics last week. Panelists held titles in a vast array of STEM fields in both the private and nonprofit sectors. From microbiologists to mechanical engineers, from government officers to pharmaceutical strategists, from entrepreneurs to consultants, the pool of talent was diverse.
Upper School physics and robotics teacher Alissa Sperling moderated, asking the panelists questions in tune with what high school students might want to know at this point in their lives, including how they overcame challenges. The speakers spoke about their paths and offered helpful advice on everything from time management to taking action on climate change.
“As high schoolers, you probably have a lot of interests and competing things,” said Chelsey Roebuck, founder and executive director of ELiTE. “There is never enough time to do everything. As you get older you get less and less time. Every activity and everything I do has a priority. As high schoolers, the stakes aren’t as high, but you have to learn to make decisions. Ask yourself, ‘Is this something I can or should be doing right now?’”
Panelists talked candidly about their trajectories, which were not always linear, as well as their “failures.”
“Don’t ever let a fear of failure stop you from trying something. You learn so much more from failure than succeeding,” said parent Steven Landau, founder of ScentSational. “If you take a test and fail, that thing you got wrong is something you’ll remember 20 years later. The things you fail in can teach you the most.”
Panelist Vanessa Chan, chief commercialization officer for the Department of Energy who also emceed the robotics event later that evening, agreed, especially as failure applied to career paths. “Don’t compare yourself to other people; if you’re in a situation where you’re failing something, don’t let that discourage you from doing it,” she said. “There are so many different paths.”
The science students were rapt, glad to have alumni and SCH parents speaking to them freely, and with an insider’s perspective, about how to navigate life and work after SCH.
“The panel was so interesting,” said senior Sela Perryman, “and very reassuring to realize that it’s OK to not have everything all figured out at this point in our lives!”
Panelists included: Stephanie Branche Carter (alumni parent), senior environmental justice coordinator at the US EPA Region III; Evan Sultanikm (parent), principal computer security researcher at Trail of Bits; Vanessa Chan (parent), chief commercialization officer for the Department of Energy; Kris Raghavan, molecular biologist at Integral Molecular; Steven Landau (parent), founder of ScentSational; Kimberly Freeman (parent), chief strategy officer at Zentalis Pharmaceuticals; Ty'Quish Keyes ’11, senior project engineer at The Boeing Company; Mike Fink ’10, software engineering for a Philly-based startup; Crystal Brown ’98, CEO of CB Consultancy; Aaron Ratner (parent), the CEO of Clean Earth Acquisitions Corp.; August Frank ’12, product manager responsible for a portfolio of products in the broader robotics space; Brian Sperling (parent), a threat intelligence researcher and security engineer; Rick Rosas, design engineering manager at Holtec; Chelsey Roebuck ’06, founder and executive director of ELiTE; and Amy LaViers Minnick (parent), director of the Robotics, Automation, and Dance Lab.