Kellenberg Memorial High School students listen to a presentation on...

Kellenberg Memorial High School students listen to a presentation on Monday at the 10th Long Island STEM Career Expo at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Pictured from left are, front row, Aileen Sullivan, Myranda Chamorro, Marina Genzone and Regina Culhane; second row, Damyrna Neas and Bianca Jean-Baptiste. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

High school students from seven Long Island schools gathered at the Cradle of Aviation Museum Monday to hear from engineers, scientists and technicians about careers in STEM.

Set against the backdrop of replica biplanes, jets and lunar landers, more than 225 students sat in on rotating 15-minute presentations from local engineering firms and manufacturers to learn about careers.

Most students “don’t know the opportunities that are actually available to them,” said Christine Gonzalez, education director at the museum. “This is a way for them to be informed and stay engaged with what’s in their backyard.”

The museum’s STEM Career Expo, in its 10th year,  aims to give mostly 10th- and 11th-grade students the chance to speak with professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“When you hear engineering, I feel like it can be overwhelming, especially as a 10th-grader or a senior in high school, so it’s nice to be able to relieve some of that anxiety for them,” said Jack Zepernick, a mechanical engineer with Cameron Engineering & Associates in Woodbury, a consultancy and presenter at the expo.

“I did not get to go on trips like this,” Zepernick said.

Behind the event is the need to develop talent pipelines for jobs in the future, said company attendees.

“If we get the kids in high school interested, then we can influence the colleges to be interested,” said Edward Sottile, director of manufacturing engineering equipment operations at Oerlikon Metco Inc. in Westbury, an expo presenter.

Sottile said it’s very hard to find workers with the  required skills, and the need is even more acute  to fill on-the-floor machinist jobs. The company is a Swiss-owned manufacturer of spray coatings for automobile and aviation parts.

He said he wants students to know that manufacturing has evolved dramatically and isn’t the “dark, dingy workplace” they may have seen on TV.

“We’re trying to counter that by showing that it’s full of automation and a lot more advanced technology,” he said. “You can make a really good living, too.”

Damyrna Neas, 15, a sophomore at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, said before the expo she had considered following in her father’s footsteps and pursuing a career in IT.  After the morning presentations, she said she’s thinking about a career in aviation.

“I always have had a love of computers and technology,” Neas said. “When I got here, I just felt more enthusiastic about it.”

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