Sammy Rizzuto On Founding STEM-CAM!
Sammy Rizzuto is a 17-year-old junior at the Academy for Mathematics, Science and Engineering in New Jersey who has named Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen earlier this year. She is also the founder of STEM-CAM, a program that teaches young people the merits of science, technology, engineering and math!
We recently spoke with Sammy about her scientific inspiration and why she's so passionate about spreading STEM!
"Since I was a little girl I have been curious about the world around me," she said.
From a young age, Sammy remembers asking questions like "Why is the sky blue?" and "Why does it thunder?"
"Instead of dismissing my questions as childish, my dad helped me to answer the question using science," Sammy said. "This was the beginning of our 'science question of the day' tradition."
As Sammy got older, her interest in the science developed further. When she was only in the second grade, she decided that she someday wanted to work for NASA. The next year, she joined a Destination Imagination team.
While she was still in grade school she also joined Sally Ride program at MIT, her school's robotics club and TARGET, or The Academy at Rutgers for Girls in Engineering and Technology.
"I excelled and developed my passion for STEM through all of these programs," she said.
When she was in the eighth grade, Sammy decided she would apply to attend the Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering to further cultivate her knowledge in STEM.
With her already vast scientific knowledge and curiosity, she was accepted into the school. There, she realized that her love for the sciences set her apart from many of her peers.
"While I always enjoyed and excelled in STEM related subjects, I realized many of my friends (particularly the girls) did not find STEM as exciting as I did," she explained.
The experience inspired her to create STEM-CAM, a program that aims to increase the interest of young people, particularly females, in STEM careers by helping them build confidence in the STEM fields. While STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, CAM represents Confidence, Attitudes and Mentoring
"Many students adopt an attitude of 'I can't' or 'I'm just no good at it' when it comes to STEM," Sammy said. "In a world where technology is advancing and expanding every minute, Americans cannot afford to accept these defeatist attitudes, which hinder students' growth in STEM related areas by promoting close-mindedness."
Furthermore, skills in science, technology, engineering and math are becoming more and more necessary to be a functional member of society.
"A student saying 'I can't do math' should be just as much of a concern as a student saying 'I can't read,'" she explained. "By building students' confidence in STEM related fields we can change their attitudes."
Through this kind of education, students can turn a subject they once feared into an important tool.
"Once students realize their potential aptitude for STEM it seem less scary and more helpful," she said.
STEM-CAM does this through hands-on activities and experiments that allow the kids to relate to these fields.
"Often times, students dislike STEM because they do not see the real life application of what they are learning," Sammy said. "Instead, they feel that they are being forced to memorize terms and formulas that won't help them in life."
The hands-on experience provided by STEM-CAM is more fun and interactive for the participating students than learning from a textbook. Plus, it teaches them that there really is a real life application for the subjects they are learning.
This exposure can help make these subjects really matter to students.
"There are more STEM related jobs available than there are American applicants to fill the positions," Sammy said. "These jobs are high-paying jobs with a certain level of job security. When girls are not exposed to STEM or rule out a STEM related job as a possibility they are limiting their options for the future. We need more qualified Americans particularly females to fill these STEM related positions in order to secure America's position as a world leader in invention and innovation."
Sammy said that she has witnessed firsthand the big differences programs like STEM-CAM can make on students' perspective on the sciences. Some students even avoid science because they assume it will lead to rejection.
"One student in particular came in with an attitude that liking STEM would make her 'unpopular' at school," Sammy said. "Our mentors (all high school students) heard her concern and shared with her all of our interests outside of STEM."
The mentors showed her that they weren't just interested in science. They were varsity soccer players, varsity cheerleaders, volleyball players, musicians, actors and more.
"When this student realized that we were not as 'nerdy' as she initially thought, she began to open up and participate in the lesson," she said. "By the end of the lesson, she was having a lot of fun and realized that she may have a passion for STEM."
Sammy Rizzuto is also much more than a science enthusiast. In January, she was named Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen.
"It has been a title I have been working toward for the last three years," she said. "I was grateful to see how my dedication and determination paid off and I am looking forward to being a role model for girls across the state this year."
Sammy's future goals include working at NASA as an aerospace engineer. She also hopes to maintain an active presence in her community to continue to help others understand the importance of STEM fields.
"I encourage everyone to pursue all their interest with all their efforts, especially when they are young," she said. "The exciting thing about pursuing STEM when you are younger is that it will open up so many doors of opportunities when you are older."
She added that pursuing STEM at a young age will help kids learn to explore all of the elements of the topic and discover which aspect they love the most.
"It is not important to fit a specific mold or stereotype," Sammy said. "People should create their own image by exploring their interest. That is what makes people unique and interesting."
Though Sammy loves STEM, she is also a cheerleader who loves to perform. She also has a strong interest in U.S. government and politics.
"I am Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen and I am a girl who loves to play in the backyard with her dog," she added. "There are many things that interest me and I appreciate having the ability to explore them all."
To learn even more about STEM-CAM and Sammy Rizzuto, check out their official website here! Are you passionate about STEM? Join us at SweetyHigh.com to share your own STEM story!