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U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici chats with design and modeling students at Scappoose Middle School

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Scappoose Middle School science teacher Cameron Boaz, front center, shows U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici how students use a computer aided design program to create designs that are printed in vinyl and turned into custom stickers. The design and modeling class Boaz leads is introduces students to technology concepts at a young age, before other programs are made available to them at the high school level.A group of students at Scappoose Middle School were given the chance to meet Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici earlier this week.

Bonamici, who represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District, made a visit to the school Tuesday, Jan. 23, and took a short tour of the school's STEM Lab, spoke with students, and spent time observing seventh-graders learning to run a vinyl cutter and printer as part of their design and modeling class elective.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.

Bonamici spoke with students about her job in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as her roles on committees focused on education, workforce, science, space and technology. She also touched on the importance of science and technology education in the classroom, as well as the

value of learning to think creatively.

"It was great to talk about STEAM with the students," Bonamici said, referencing an expanded focus on STEM to include the arts, what is called STEAM. "It's important to know how to do something, but it's also about learning to be creative as well."

Bonamici was one of the co-founders of a STEAM caucus, which now includes 87 members.

The congresswoman told the class she is the only female U.S. representative in Oregon. Science teacher Cameron Boaz thought that point was especially important for young girls in his class.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici speaks with a class of seventh-grade students at Scappoose Middle School on Monday, Jan. 22. The congresswoman spent time in the classroom chatting with students and answering questions before the students showed her what programs they use in their design and modeling class."It's important for our young girls to see that, and I am constantly encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM fields if they like them," Boaz stated in an email to the Spotlight.

Student Xander Beaulac took a keen interest in Bonamici's visit. He made a custom purple vinyl sticker emblazoned with Bonamici's last name and the school's initials encompassed in an outline of the state of Oregon.

During the visit, students showed Bonamici a computer-assisted design program, called Rhinoceros, they use to design their own creative images.

Bonamici said she primarily wanted to visit the school to see how a middle school tech lab was set up.

"I had heard about the STEM Lab and the fact that it was in a middle school, which is unusual, and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to see students working," Bonamici said. "It really does make a difference when students are trying something, and it's for themselves and they are more engaged."

Boaz said he was happy Bonamici visited the school. He emphasized how programs like the design and modeling class would not be possible without funding from the state through special grant programs.

"I think it was cool for students to see and meet someone who represents them and cares about their education, even though to them that person is a total stranger," Boaz said. "I think at this age there are quite a few kids who don't understand the political side of what she does, but I know the kids were excited to have her here and they thought it was cool to meet someone who is an important person in Oregon and in Washington, D.C."

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