My experience as a GSK Kenan STEM Fellow has been filled with many ups, and a few challenges.
During my five-week summer internship at LORD Corporation — a diversified technology and manufacturing company developing highly reliable adhesives, coatings, motion management devices, and sensing technologies — I had the opportunity to be involved in multiple parts of the company. One of my most interesting moments at LORD had to be when I first started working on my epoxy. I was given a recipe of chemicals and then had to go through the whole process of making both sides of the epoxy. It was really exciting to be able to say that I made this adhesive from start to finish!
After being so excited about having made an epoxy all on my own, I then had to test it and collect data. This was really neat until the data didn’t turn out the way that it should have. I immediately got frustrated. For as much as we tell our students that mistakes are great, I certainly wasn’t practicing what I preach in that moment. I went to my mentor and told him what happened. He seemed to think it was a possible simple fix such as how long we let the epoxy cure, or the time we gave it to stick together.
But on the other hand it could have been how I made the epoxy and he suggested remaking it. After fixing my epoxy and reflecting back, I was able to see from my students’ perspectives how frustrating it can be to make a mistake. This was a huge lesson for me so that I can frame mistakes for my students in a better, more relatable way. After figuring out the problem, I was so excited again. This really showed me the importance of perseverance after a failure.
One of my biggest takeaways from this experience was how invaluable hands-on experience is. We are always told as teachers to make learning fun and hands-on but this can be a challenge. At the same time, without the opportunity to get my hands dirty and work on the epoxy myself, I don’t think I would have learned half as much in my time here at LORD.
Being able to work through chemistry that I do not have a professional background in and yet be successful (with the support of a great team) has shown me how students who may not always have the best background knowledge or foundation but can still succeed. This lesson is something that will stick with me for the rest of my career, and I hope will make me a better teacher.
Carson Anderson is a 2017-18 GSK Kenan STEM Fellow. She teaches fourth grade at Cary Elementary School in the Wake County Public School System.