FUTURE FOCUS EXPO: Exposing Students to Career Possibilities

Issue: November 2010 by in Inside The Magazine, Technology

Buses filled with middle and high school students made their way to the fifth annual Future Focus EXPO held at Liberty University’s Tolsma Indoor Track on Tuesday, September 15. Each year the EXPO, hosted by Virginia’s Region 2000 Technology Council, gives students who are interested in science and technology the opportunity to learn more about the companies in the region that provide careers in these fields.

Students from more than 30 schools in Lynchburg and the four surrounding counties were invited to attend. For the first time, Lynchburg City and Bedford County eighth graders were bused from their schools to the EXPO and more than 2,500 students were in attendance, according to Jonathan Whitt, Executive Director of Virginia’s Region 2000 Technology Council.

“I hope [the students] come away with knowing there are adults and companies here that care about their futures and want to help them succeed,” Whitt said.

Featuring more than 50 interactive displays, the EXPO also allows students to participate in hands-on, problem-solving activities designed to promote creativity.

“We did hands-on technology challenges last year just to feel it out and this year we really enlarged that,” Whitt said.

Many local businesses were in attendance including Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Inc. (AMTI), AREVA and the Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W).

“What I love about the EXPO is, it lets middle and high school kids know that there are many, many great careers right here in Lynchburg,” Beverly Whipkey, AMTI’s Human Resources Manager, said.

AMTI, a local information technology company, is in partnership with Virginia’s Region 2000 Technology Council and has been attending the EXPO for the past few years. According to Whipkey, AMTI is competing with many large companies and is in need of engineers. She said the EXPO gives her company a great opportunity to connect with students who are already interested in that particular field.

“I would say in any given year in the past … I’ve probably talked to a good 20 students who are seriously thinking about what they want to do in the future,” Whipkey said.

Whipkey also said that with the rapid changes in technology, it is important to get the students interested in technology when they are young so they will be able to compete for good jobs in the future.

“Technology is so advanced today that [students] have to have good math and science skills to be able to figure it out,” she said. “So that’s what we’re here to do … to encourage them.”

Many parents brought their children to the EXPO after hearing about it through the local schools. Jettie King learned of the EXPO through her 12-year-old son, Thomas, who is interested in the field of nuclear engineering and spoke with representatives with AREVA and B&W while at the EXPO.

“I think [nuclear engineering] would just be really fun,” he said. “I’m really good with math and science.”

King said the EXPO was a great way to get the students in contact with local companies.

“I think it’s an excellent idea to advertise businesses and to let students explore different careers and talk with people who work there so that they can find what they are interested in doing,” she said.

Lauren Grimmett brought her 10-year-old son, Brian, to the EXPO to learn more information about the different local companies that provide careers in engineering.

“His father is an engineer and he’s interested in following his footsteps,” Grimmett said.

Brian, who is on the Lego team for Forest Elementary School, said he was interested in finding new ideas that could help him in his next Lego tournament taking place this month. His Lego team, which Grimmett said spends much of their time researching cancer treatments, is currently working on building and programming a robot that will be able to perform different tasks during the competition.

Grimmett said that all the support and information she and her son received at the EXPO from the local businesses was great for the parents and gave the students a wide range of ideas they can use as they go on to plan their futures.

“It’s nice to have science and math options and have the support of businesses as we work together to help support our children,” she said.

The Virginia’s Region 2000 Technology Council is part of Virginia’s Region 2000 Partnership, a network of organizations within the 2,000 square miles that surround Lynchburg, Virginia. This includes Amherst County, Appomattox County, Campbell County and Bedford County. For more information, visit Region2000.org.

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