New Flagler College club, FSTEAM offers opportunities for all majors to shine

By Abby Bittner

Flagler student Kyle Clarke has taken the initiative to create FSTEAM on campus, which compiles elements of science, technology, entrepreneurship, art and math.  Graduating in 2022, the deaf education major has minors in ASL and mathematics, and originally studied computer engineering at University of Florida. The club president is excited to see what the semester will bring despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

AB: “How did you make the switch from computer engineering to deaf education?”

KC: “I actually applied to Flagler’s deaf ed program right out of high school because I loved ASL, and my ASL teacher went here and talked about the program a lot.  After I got accepted, I was talking with my parents and they were like, ‘You don’t need to be a teacher, they don’t make any money’, so I chose the computer engineering degree instead. After a couple years there, I was like, ‘Man, I really hate this,’ so I switched back to my original goal of being a deaf ed teacher.”

AB: “How do you think that background impacts FSTEAM with this experience in mind?”

KC: “Growing up, I was always interested in technology, and at UF I was a part of the Gator Robotics Club.  I definitely would not of had the same ideas or the same way of thinking about these scientific topics that I had now if I hadn’t been in that club or in those classes.  I have just enough knowledge now to put together the fun stuff, but it’s not so deep that it gets boring.”

A tabling event for FSTEAM in the Ringhaver Student Center earlier this semester.

AB: “It’s so cool that FSTEAM is open to people of all different interests.  Why did you want to start FSTEAM at Flagler College?”

KC: “I actually got the idea around winter break, after I was researching Flagler’s 10 year plan, because I had to do an ethnography project on the accommodations and culture of disability and advocacy.  I was looking at what they had planned, diversity and inclusion wise, and I saw that they were going to open a STEM building and start doing STEM programs.  I thought it would be really neat to start a battle bots team before the building and the programs get here so we could get our foot in the door.”

AB: “As president of FSTEAM, how do you hope to lead the club?”

KC: “The goal right now is get members and to make our name a household name.  We have the top three clubs at Flagler:  College Activities Board (CAB), Student Government Association (SGA), and Flagler College Volunteers (FCV), and I want a spot there.  I want to be one of the ‘big boys’ on campus that everyone loves to go to the events.  Right now, the short-term goals are to put on events and to start the essentially.”

AB: “With being a new club on campus, tell me about your struggles with getting everything approved during a pandemic.”

KC: “Everything I sent in to propose the club was scrapped.  All of the stuff I had in my head about how we were going to run things and do things on campus just got completely pushed to the wayside.  We’re all about social distancing and putting on events in person and virtually, and our first workshop event is now pandemic themed. It’s social distant circles, and there will be a quick math problem about how efficiently you can pack a shape with circles. That was not going to be a planned event at all.”

AB: “Why do you think FSTEAM is an important addition to Flagler College, especially in light of the struggles you’ve faced with the pandemic?”

KC: “It covers a wide range of topics, from beginner to advanced, that students here just aren’t going to see.  The closest thing we have to a STEM major would be our coastal environmental science program.  If they wanted to play around with how a lightbulb works, we don’t really have a circuits course.  We could absolutely take this curiosity that students might have over simple things, like when I flip this switch, why does it do the things that it does? STEAM is usually science, technology, arts and math, obviously we switched it to entrepreneurship, but it was an evolution of STEM.  They saw that there was such a dip in art and liberal arts majors happening that they added the arts back in and got STEAM.”

AB: “Flagler doesn’t have an engineering program, but for students to learn the science behind STEAM is very important so they can gain more knowledge about the different fields.”

KC: “Exactly, that I think is one of the biggest challenges too.  The campus isn’t geared towards us, so we have to gear ourselves towards them. We have to overcome this hurdle of, “Oh, they have math in their club name?’ and people saying, ‘I don’t know if I like that,’ we have to meet them more than halfway and say, ‘Hey, we’re not just a math club, we’re not just doing science experiments and nerding out over numbers.’” 

AB: “What are some events FSTEAM has planned for this semester?”

KC: “We have a lot in the works, because we’re such a different club than what’s been seen, a lot of what we ask for has to go through the bureaucratic process.  Battle Bots will probably be starting in the next few weeks.  For our service projects, we’re trying to get with Big Brothers Big Sisters and do speed dating but for science, and socially distant too.

AB: “That’s awesome, it sounds like you’ve got some fun events planned.”

KC:  “We’re trying to get a local bank to sponsor a faux stock market challenge for our entrepreneurs.  We want to do a yearly art contest where you redesign our logo for a shirt, and then the top three winners will get their design on a shirt, and then we will sell the top one’s shirt and all the proceeds will go to a charity they pick.”

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