Shared from the 7/19/2021 Midland Daily News eEdition

STEM Stars: Dow High’s Sahiba Kaur


Sahiba Kaur

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a Midland Daily News weekly series called “STEM Stars,” which features local secondary students who are Chief Science Officers (CSOs). These students, in grades 6-12, serve as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) ambassadors and liaisons for STEM opportunities in their communities.

This week will feature  Sahiba Kaur, a rising freshman  from H.H. Dow High School.

When and why did you become a Chief Science Officer?

I started out in my sixth-grade year because of an amazing opportunity given by my older sister’s science Olympiad coach. Christine Brillhart, a teacher at Jefferson Middle School, is also the coach of many clubs as well as the advisor for the CSO program at Jefferson.

In addition to being a fantastic superstar in terms of teaching and coaching, she went above and beyond by providing extra activities to keep people engaged even when the competition season was over.

During the end of the year, I’d occasionally come to see what they were doing (things like building a fun rocket or dissections). Mrs. Brillhart noticed that I had a passion for STEM and gave me the opportunity to be in this program. Of course, I was very delighted and have been able to grow both as a person internally and how I present myself externally through this program. Everything about this program keeps me coming back every year!

What does it mean to you to be a CSO?

Being a CSO can have different meanings to different people. For me, being a CSO means sharing my love of STEM with others in my community and beyond as well as being a young leader that others can look up to. I make this as more of a goal and something to aspire to do.

Being given the opportunity and chance to be a CSO is a great honor and I feel that I should go to my best potential with it.

What do you enjoy about being a CSO so far?

Any moment has been a notable and worthwhile experience, but some of the most memorable parts are the people. I break this into  three categories - professionals, other CSOs, and the general public.

A major part of the program is cabinet meetings, which is a day for CSOs to both connect and learn, generally meeting some professionals along the way. Branching off of this, a major concept in both the program and the real world is networking. I’ve been able to meet so many great presenters, who are all very inspiring.

One thing that is hard for many people, including me, is talking in front of a crowd, especially hosting an event. The biggest part of the program is action plans, which are when CSOs host events to start that passion of STEM in others, whether it be directly or more of a connection to STEM, such as music, art, etc.

In order to host an event, one needs to have connections to reach out to about the event. This has helped me gain practice in hosting and facilitating events. Other CSOs are an inspiration in this way when I see them speaking very articulately and communicating well.

Finally, these action plans are for some kind of audience - whether it be small or large, they are still part of the general public. Getting the practice and experiences of talking in front of people who you aren’t already comfortable with is a super valuable experience in growing your ability of communication and networking.

What is your action plan?

Just like any skill, practice leads to improvement. Being a first-year (CSO) in sixth grade, I had huge goals, but more realistically, I was just trying to figure out what was going on in the program.

After discussing with my advisor, we decided to start out small so I could get some practice and see what to improve for future years. Mrs. Brillhart was one of the teachers for the elective class CSI (Crime Scene Investigation), so she had some wonderful CSI kits.

The idea was to have people explore different techniques (hair evidence, teeth marks, fingerprints, etc.) each week and at the last week have a crime scene in which the participants try to figure out who was the criminal. While I only had between 5-10 people coming, I did my action plan over the span of around  four weeks, so I had an impact of around 30-40 “people” in total.

While it was certainly very confusing and many things I could’ve improved on, it went overall well for my first time. In seventh grade, I got a little bit more involved in the program and attended a few STEM steering meetings. This was the year which I actually tried making connections.

I was able to get in touch with a climate and computer scientist who I was going to host a guest talk with at the Earth Day that Midland has every year. However, due to  COVID happening, this got cancelled and ended up not working out. While I could’ve still done this virtually, I had no clue how to host a meeting virtually at the time.

During quarantine, I was seeing a lot of posts in the CSO classroom about times to chat and connect with each other. Being at home, I decided to join these to have some fun and meet other CSOs. This ended up being a life-changing result for me. I got more and more involved into the program on an international level, and helped out with some virtual events.

Now, I’m a part of the international council and am super grateful for that. Getting more involved with the program led me to finally talk to Kelly Greene, director of student success at the program. To think that I was too shy to talk with her back in my first year, and now I love to and do so comfortably, is an amazing feeling!

She noticed my love for mathematics and got me in touch with the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival. I became a facilitator and intern with them, and eventually hosted math festivals of my own as my action plans in eighth grade. Of course, with coronavirus these were all virtual, but they worked out pretty well!

There were definitely times I could’ve improved, such as on outreaching the event, but this helps me see what to improve in the future. In addition, I’ve realized that these Math Festivals, where there are puzzles, interactive activities, and wonderful guest speakers, are what I want to do as my action plans throughout high school as well!

What first got you interested in STEM?

I’ve always been interested in STEM from a young age, so I’ll talk about what made me get more into STEM besides just attending STEM classes at school.

In elementary school, there aren’t really too many clubs, and those years felt like a fun time to just chill. However, there was the First Lego League robotics which I participated in in fifth grade. This was definitely really cool, and although our team didn’t advance, I decided to continue on with robotics in my middle school years.

This has most likely led to me liking computer science, as I started searching up more about programming. I really do love computer science and its connections to mathematics, two of my favorite parts of STEM.

Speaking of mathematics, this is the biggest thing that I love about STEM. I participated in Mathcounts in sixth grade, and while I no doubt had no clue what I was doing, it was a very fun experience to do math that is not what is taught in school.

The main difference is in c,ompetitions there is more of a problem-solving aspect and in school there is more of a direct application of formulas. I personally love seeing proofs fall together and different concepts making a neat trick to solve a question.

In seventh and eighth grade I got way more involved in math competitions and they’ve been a great experience I’d recommend to others. I even convinced some friends to join Math-counts and they now love mathematics as well! There were also many, many amazing moments where my love of STEM kept growing, including science olympiad events (especially circuit lab!) and  You Be The Chemist.

Why is STEM education so important?

STEM education is vital as it provides the skills that you will need in future jobs. STEM jobs are in high demand and this demand keeps increasing throughout the years as our world becomes more and more technologically run.

Since all parts of STEM are equally important and without one part, the others can’t function, we need a STEM education, not just technological, in order to understand what is going on in the future of our world. Innovation, problem solving, and hard work are results of learning STEM, which will definitely benefit you in the future.

What are some aspects of STEM that you feel many people aren’t aware of or don’t understand?

Like I mentioned earlier, without one part of STEM, the other parts cannot work. This is something that I believe people aren’t aware of or don’t understand. For example, many people do not like mathematics. However, without mathematics, how do we do physics? How will your computer or phone you use for everything work? How will scientists describe or convert units?

Mathematics is the fundamental base for defining many topics, and similar logic can be used to conclude that all parts of STEM are connected, and these connections really are a vast realm that we are only at the surface of.

What do you like doing in your free time?

I love doing a variety of things. Of course I mentioned I like STEM, so I do some stuff outside of school related to that. I also play the violin and I love music a lot. Spending time with friends and family is something that is enjoyable and that I want to try to do more often. When the weather is nice, my sister and I go bike riding together. I also watch a lot of YouTube, as you may expect out of a teenager.

What are your career aspirations?

I mentioned that computer science and mathematics are two of my favorite parts of STEM. Relating to this, my career aspiration is to be a computer scientist at NASA or doing something related to computers and space. I admire NASA and astronomy, although my knowledge of it is very limited (which is something I’d like to explore in the future!).

Computer science incorporates mathematics, but if I get the chance, I’d like to either get a degree in mathematics as well or at least take a class in research mathematics (which is more advanced) at college.

What person or people inspire you and in what way?

Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician, is a great inspiration for many people. Personally, I am Indian so I am even more awed by him. In a nutshell, he is one of the most brilliant minds in mathematics and his discoveries include 1729, the taxi cab number (he is famously known for this, I would recommend searching this up! Note that 1729 is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two positive cubes in two distinct ways!).

When I first heard about this, I thought it was super cool, and the reason this is a nice inspiration is that I’d like to have this sort of impact as well. Doing something positive that others can remember me for is something I strive for and hope to achieve at some point in life. I’d also like to give a shoutout to my family and friends who give me support and other CSOs and the program which I learn so much from.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

All in all, I’m super grateful for all this program has given and taught to me, and I’d like to pay it forward by leading and helping other CSOs.

I hope that sharing my story has been of some inspiration or some interest to you. Feel free to reach out to me any time, I love to chit-chat! My email is

See this article in the e-Edition Here
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