No one becomes an engineer by accident!
You’d be hard pressed to find an engineer, in this country, who didn’t make an explicit decision to become an engineer and to take the necessary steps to get there. Many students who choose engineering as a major, tend to do so just before, or in my case, just after they begin college. Unfortunately, by then it is too late. The fact of the matter is, that the way our education system works right now, in order for a student to be prepared to begin an engineering career straight out of high school, that decision needs to be made as early as 6th grade.
My mission is to inspire more kids to choose engineering or technology as a viable career path. This mission comes from my own experiences, and the struggles I faced as I followed the difficult path to become an engineer.
A bit about my background, I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, which took me 6.5 years to complete. I graduated from one of the top public schools in California, in a little town called Cupertino (maybe you’ve heard of it). I had all the opportunities that a child in this country could ask for and still, I entered college unprepared to begin an engineering degree program. Most of my time in my undergraduate program, I was not only the only woman in class, but also the only latino student in class. I was one of three women in my graduating class from the electrical engineering program at CSU, Long Beach.
After graduating, I spent nearly 10 years in the semiconductor industry in various engineering, marketing and sales roles, though because of my challenges as a women engineering student I made a conscious decision to try to give back to students very early in the elementary years. My volunteer work has included program management with the Society of Women Engineers, where I managed STEM education and enrichment programs including Expanding Your Horizons and Designing Women; conferences designed to introduce young girls to science and engineering; Get SET, a science and engineering camp and mentoring program for high school minority girls, and A Guiding Hand, a mentoring program for university women studying engineering.
I found such satisfaction from introducing students to the potential of Science, Technology, and Engineering at a really young age, that I finally decided that it was my ‘Life’s Work’, it was why I showed up, what I was put here to do.
I should add that I also completed a Master’s degree in Engineering and Technology Management, in 2005, from Portland State University, which not only gave me the confidence to venture out as an entrepreneur, but also prepared me with many of the critical business skills and tools I needed to conceive, develop, and launch a small business. In 2007, the dean of the ETM program at PSU, Dr. Dundar Kocaoglu, successfully nominated me as the first inductee in the Women Engineer’s Hall of Fame in the College of Engineering at PSU. (This award is still one of the most amazing honors I have received, in my lifetime.)
In 2007, I left my position with a semiconductor test equipment manufacturer and started a local business in Portland, Oregon, completely dedicated to introducing young students to engineering and technology. During the 3 years I ran Portland Wiz Kids, I developed over 15 unique engineering courses for students ages 5 – 15, and worked with nearly 6,000 kids in the state of Oregon. But, as I continued to grow a successful social venture in the local area, I was increasingly bothered with the small scale of impact that our work in Portland was having on the national, or some say global, crisis of preparing our students for the future.
In 2009, I was introduced to the president of Learning.com who shared with me some wonderful math, science, and technology resources and teacher tools that the company offered to schools and districts nationwide, products that were truly changing teachers’ views of technology in the classroom. With Learning.com, I immediately saw the potential to have an impact on students across the country. With Portland Wiz Kids, if I was lucky, I could reach 3,500 students a year, and with Learning.com, in that same year, I could reach 3.5 million!
So, in January, 2010, I joined Learning.com to contribute my expertise in STEM to the Learning.com vision of what education reform should look like. Since I’ve started, I’ve worked to improve Learning.com’s solutions to reshape STEM education across the country, through innovative, strategic partners such as with LEGO Education and NASA, as well as through specific teacher professional development workshops around STEM.
I now work with educators and administrators all over the country who are looking to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into classroom instruction to improve student achievement and to better prepare their students for living and learning in the 21st century. I develop online curriculum and professional development resources for educators to integrate STEM into all areas of the classroom day. I am a frequent speaker on topics related to the policy and practice of STEM education, as well as recruiting and retaining underrepresented population – minorities and females – in STEM fields. I’ve given presentations to the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA), American Association of University Women (AAUW), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Northwest Council for Computers in Education (NCCE) and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). I recently served on a panel on Capitol Hill for the Women’s High Tech Coalition (WHTC), whose members – congress reps, staffers, and industry reps – are just now beginning to pay attention to the crisis in education around STEM.
In addition to my work with Learning.com and contributing to this blog, I serve as an engineering curriculum reviewer for TeachEngineering.org and as a guest blogger on the New York Academy of Sciences Pathways to Science blog for science educators. I love to write, speak, and discuss anything related to K-16 STEM Education, so I invite you to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have events or projects with which I can help.