GTA’s STEM Career Day inspires career ideas for Gorge students

Dr. Kevin McCabe assists students in extracting DNA from strawberries as part of GTA's STEM Career Day.

Submitted photo
Dr. Kevin McCabe assists students in extracting DNA from strawberries as part of GTA's STEM Career Day.

The Gorge Technology Alliance (GTA) held its second-annual STEM Career Day for students in the region on Friday, April 24, in The Dalles.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All seventhh graders in the five-county GTA region (Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Skamania and Klickitat Counties) were invited and around 725 participated with their schools.


Students mill between a fire truck and ambulance from Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue and Insitu’s flight control truck.

“As I told the students at the beginning of the day, the Gorge Tech Alliance hosted this event because our tech businesses love to hire people that grew up in the Gorge,” said Jessica Metta, Executive Director of the GTA. “Today was meant to inspire the students to reach for some of the jobs available here.”

Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) is an important partner in the event, serving as an ideal spot to host so many students as they visit different business presenters. The day started with a presentation about what it’s like to go to college, focusing mostly on CGCC and Oregon State. College president Dr. Frank Toda also encouraged the students with a message about the Gorge Scholars program, in which CGCC covers two years of tuition for high school graduates within its service area with a GPA of 3.30 or higher. Insitu next presented to the group about what the company does and the different types of career opportunities with this largest of Gorge employers.

Students then broke into smaller groups for presentations and hands-on activities with 16 different Gorge businesses or CGCC programs. Students extracted DNA from strawberries, handled pelts collected by wildlife biologists, stepped inside a fire truck, ambulance and Insitu’s flight control truck, and much more. “The feedback we receive is wonderful,” said Metta. “We help open minds, and hopefully doors, for students around the Gorge.

“We couldn’t have done it without the willingness of the presenters to give up a large portion of their work day. They were excited to be able to give back to the community in this way,” said Metta. Presenters included Big River Laboratories, Boulder Path Designs, CGCC Health Sciences Program and Renewable Energy Technology Program, Google, Gorge Networks, IBEW 48, Insitu, Research scientists Kevin McCabe and Emilie Miller, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Dept. of Transportation, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, Ray Perkins Photography/ RADCOMP, Real Carbon and Sightline Applications. The Gorge Tech Alliance also thanks Columbia River Insurance for sponsoring. “Scott Reynier and Jon Davies are great supporters,” said Metta.

Besides the GTA, the event was planned by Ann Harris with OSU Open Campus, Suzanne Burd and Jeff Nicol with CGCC, Brent Emmons with Hood River Middle, Catherine Dalbey with Wy’east Middle and Lance Masters from The Dalles Middle School. The 725 seventh (and some eighth) graders came from Sherman Junior/Senior High School, Glenwood School, Wy’East Middle School, Hood River Middle School, Klickitat School, Centerville School, Mosier Community School, The Dalles Middle School, Henkle Middle School, St. Mary’s Academy, Horizon Christian School and Wishram School.

GTA supports, connects and develops the technology community of the Columbia River Gorge with networking and educational events, business support and promotion, workforce development and youth robotics. The GTA is a nonprofit professional organization supporting the high tech businesses and STEM education in the Gorge. Learn more at

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