UT Libraries Welcomes High School Students for BOSS STEM Conference
BOSS students interact with a robotic Dolly Parton
BOSS students interact with a robotic Dolly Parton

More than 120 high school students attended the Big Orange STEM Saturday (BOSS) Conference January 27 at John C. Hodges Library. BOSS is a day-long professional conference that gives students the opportunity to meet with STEM professors and local collaborators and network with them to learn more about what careers they may pursue in STEM disciplines.

The students represented 20 high schools from nine East Tennessee counties.

The program’s mission is to bring information on STEM careers to historically underrepresented populations, expose them to university life and get them excited about STEM and being a VOL.

This year’s theme was “Adventures and Explorations.” Seven presentations were offered to the students, with topics including pioneering artificial intelligence, exploration of the earth’s moon and adventures, and explorations in game-based learning.

Between sessions exhibitors lined the first floor Galleria and students mingled among individuals from UT offices such as WUTK 90.3 FM, eSports, Pre-College Research Excellence, and Kao Innovation and Collaboration Studio. Exhibitors provided unique hands-on displays for students, from programmable robots to virtual reality simulations. Guests included UT alum Camille Bergin, influencer “Galactic Gal” as keynote speaker. Students interacted with a robotic Dolly Parton throughout the day.

Students also experienced a mainstay of college life: a trip to the cafeteria for lunch.

BOSS is an annual conference for students in UT’s College Access and Persistence Services which supports outreach services that help students overcome social, academic, financial, and cultural barriers in higher education.

Dr. Xiaopeng Zhao, professor and director of AI at the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies, welcomed the STEM students at the opening session