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Panelists inspire kids toward STEM fields

Stand back, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé! Engineers are the new rock stars for middle school students attending Tech Titans’ “Successful Women in Technology” and “You Can Be an Engineer” panels. These engaging and diverse panelists are creating a sensation and inspiring kids from all backgrounds to imagine STEM careers of their own.

It’s all part of the Tech Titans Talent Team’s initiative to inspire students to pursue STEM education in high school and beyond. To date, they’ve provided 10,000 STEM inspirations for middle and high school students in Coppell, Lewisville, Richardson and Wylie ISDs. (Photos courtesy of Lewisville ISD & Mitel)

Mona Abou-Sayed from Mitel moderated a panel of female engineers for an audience of 184 middle school girls from Lewisville ISD. Commenting on the panelists, she said that she was “inspired by these women’s stories and career journeys.”

Tech Titans is a bridge between education and industry. Volunteers share their time, stories and passion for STEM careers.

“I am so impressed with the tone and tempo of the panelists,” said Bob Hill, Tech Titans board member and vice-chair of the Talent Team. “Their description of the workplace is positive, uplifting and encouraging – versus what students see portrayed in TV and film.”

Successful Women in Technology panels

Successful Women in Technology panels are a hit with girls who are often surprised to see so many female panelists with compelling careers in technology and engineering. Panelists introduce themselves, talk about their work and how they got started on their own STEM career journeys. The Q&A format encourages girls to visualize themselves as engineers and scientists, and to ask questions.

“The panelists’ time spent with our girls is already paying dividends,” said Lindsay Ayers, director of strategic partnerships for Lewisville ISD, after a recent event for eighth graders. “Events like these will change the future for our students.” A student commented: “I honestly wasn’t expecting this many women to be on the panel and to hear their stories and their achievements. It really has inspired me.”

Everyone Can be an Engineer panels: role models for future engineers

Middle school students at the Tech Titans’ “Everyone Can Be an Engineer” panel note the range of panelists’ backgrounds and career pathways. These successful engineers are diverse in gender, race and ethnicity. So are their young audiences. For many kids these are the first engineers – if not the first professionals – they have ever met. These events are their chance to ask questions, perhaps ones their parents and teachers can’t answer.

Lymari Ames, program manager at Cisco, is a frequent panel moderator. She has students’ attention when they learn that she worked on the technology that became text messaging - five years before it was launched. “I can’t tell you what I’m working on now,” she said. “We get to see technology now that will be coming out ten years in the future.”

Panelists share their stories of who first inspired them to study STEM courses, sometimes confessing that they were not necessarily good at math, while encouraging students to try difficult classes and new subjects. Questions from students range from what classes to take in high school to what work schedules are like.

Engineers also provide context about the “soft skills” vital to a successful STEM career, including time management, problem-solving and teamwork. 

And, they encourage. Vijay Balakrishna, senior director of research at Qorvo, told them, “Technology is our bread and butter. We’re always looking for bright, technical folks to come to work with us at Qorvo.”

What’s next?
Talent Team committee members have established a successful, replicable model for panels that delivers value to students and provides a meaningful and seamless experience for volunteers.

The demand from teachers and ISDs for these panels is steadily increasing. The brisk pace of Tech Titans panel presentations resumes in the fall. Meanwhile, panel events will take place this summer during STEM camps in Wylie ISD, on the UT Dallas campus and at the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence.

“Tech Titans is a bridge for these eight-graders who will be choosing their academic track next year. We want to encourage them to choose STEM classes,” said Dave Galley, Tech Titans STEM director.

The next generation of our STEM workforce needs YOU! 

Contact Dave Galley to volunteer as a panelist or explore sponsorship opportunities: or 469 951-8239.

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