DO-IT Does Alaska!

Scott Bellman, DO-IT staff
Picture of Scott and Alex
DO-IT staff Scott Bellman visits with an AccessSTEM team member in Alaska.

In April, I visited Alaska to meet with project partners and recruit student participants for the Northwest Alliance for Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM). I visited high schools and University of Alaska campuses in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

It was a whirlwind tour. I took four flights in three days and had about fifteen working meetings. I did manage to see a few sights, though—like a reindeer farm and the dripping remains of Fairbanks's annual ice sculptures. The students I met there were great. They had a variety of disabilities—Asperger's Syndrome, a learning disability, a hearing impairment, vision impairments, a seizure disorder, and quadriplegia. All of them were interested in science. There wasn't much of a time zone difference, but it was hard going to sleep with the sun still up at 11 PM!

My first meeting was with Ellen Nash at the King Career Center in Anchorage. Ellen introduced me to Dimond High School seniors Chris and Brandon. Both are interested in college and want to explore careers in computer technology. On the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) campus, I met with Kaela Parks (Disability Services Director) and high school student Alex. Alex is a freshman at Anchorage's West High School who was visiting the UAF campus to learn about different types of assistive technology. Alex has interests in audio engineering and technology in general. I also met with UAA college student Michelle, whom I am working with to set up an AccessSTEM paid internship to build her technical skills. Michelle is receiving an AA degree in telecommunications, electronics, and computer technology and would like to pursue a four-year degree.

Further north, in Fairbanks, I met with Mary Matthews, Disability Student Services Director, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus. Mary and I met with staff and faculty to discuss AccessSTEM and recruit mentors. We met with Dr. Denise Thorsen (an advisor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Richard Collins (natural sciences faculty member), and Patty Picha (career counselor at UAF Career Services).

The next meeting was a worksite visit with AccessSTEM intern John, a UAF student. John is assisting the North Star Borough Library (NSBL) with computer maintenance and repair. As he explains, "I update anti-virus software and Windows programs and I rebuild towers as needed and help with any other projects. I have learned how to get around in Windows XP and 2000. The AccessSTEM internship has given me a chance to work while I learn." John has received an Associates degree in information systems. He is legally blind.

UAF student and AccessSTEM participant Dennis Hochstetler is working in an internship with the Federal Weather Service/NOAA to set up a climatological database for lightening prediction. He stated, "The internship has given me the chance to actually do scientific research and gives me experience for working in employment that uses scientific procedures". The meeting included Dennis' Internship supervisor Eric Stevens, the NOAA Science and Operations officer.

I also visited Hutchinson High School student Daniel and his counselor Nina Tartakoff. Daniel has an interest in Marine Biology and underwater welding. They were invited by Mary to the UAF campus to hear about science programs including Marine Biology.

My final meeting was with UAF student Cole, who hopes to set up an AccessSTEM internship at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, WA.