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Talent Team helps students donate equipment to developing countries

Fifty Richardson ISD (RISD) students participated in a Talent Team workshop hosted by the UTDesign Makerspace. Juniors and seniors from Buckner High School and J.J. Pearce High School spent the day-long STEM education experience touring the UTDesign Studio, talking with engineering students, participating in a design workshop and assembling heart monitor kits that will be used for training in developing countries.
(photos by Shirley Wilson, Mitel)

The event was sponsored by State Farm Enterprise Technology. Tech Titans volunteers from Advanced Technologies Consultants, Mitel, Qorvo and State Farm and several UT Dallas engineering students served as mentors throughout the day’s activities.

“We strongly believe all young people deserve an education that will help them realize their dreams and reach their greatest potential,” said Lisa Frey from State Farm. “The real success for STEM investments is seeing the excitement in a student’s eyes and the satisfaction of sharing our talents with students in the communities where we live and work.”
Understanding the how and the why of engineering design

Rod Wetterskog, assistant dean of corporate relations, Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas, spoke to the group about the engineering design process, emphasizing that a passion to help others is an essential skill for engineers. He encouraged students to take advantage of the things that come easily to them and stressed that successful engineers are life-long learners.

John Zancana who teaches animation at J.J. Pearce High School said, “This event helped our students who often do not see these types of opportunities to engage in a competition that celebrates their creativity from a STEM perspective. The hands-on environment helped our them experience a success that they do not often have.”
Ask us anything: students get the inside scoop from engineering students


During lunch, students munched pizza during an interactive Q and A session with a diverse group of engineering students. Questions ranged from why they chose UT Dallas (for its research facilities) and favorite projects (research on vagus nerve stimulation), to how female engineering students navigate in a traditionally male-dominated field (by making friends and speaking up).

The panelists – all of whom were about five years older than their rapt audience – shared tips about developing college-level study habits and time management skills. They recommended exploring the numerous campus clubs and workshop opportunities. Also, coffee. “When you graduate from high school, learn about coffee,” Alexandra (“Aleks”) Adamopoulos advised with a grin.

The challenge: building working optical heart rate monitors

Adamopoulos, a junior engineering student and president of the UT Dallas chapter of Engineering World Health, introduced students to the workshop design challenge: building optical heart rate monitors for distribution to health care organizations in developing countries. When correctly built, she explained, the circuit measures a subject’s heart rate through the fingertip and shows cardiac frequency through a blinking light. The process includes soldering the switch and then the LED to test that the polarity is correct. For some students, this was their first experience with soldering.

Working in teams of three, Berkner and J.J. Pearce students competed against the other school to build the highest functioning monitors during the allotted time. They worked carefully and quickly, digesting instructions and discussing approaches, to assemble the kits and then test the completed monitors. UT Dallas students and the Tech Titans volunteer mentors circulated during the fast-paced hour, answering questions and providing encouragement.
“This is like a college-level freshman engineering project,” said Wetterskog, observing the students’ level of engagement during the challenge.

The result? When time was called, each school had successfully completed eight functioning monitors. The 16 units will be used for training in developing countries. The winner of the competition between the schools was decided by volunteer judges in a tie-breaker pitch session won by the J.J. Pearce team. All students from both schools received the important Starbucks gift cards in preparation of their future college coffee needs.

The take-away for STEM students…and for Tech Titans volunteers
Before the students headed back to their school buses, Dave Galley, director of the Tech Titans STEM Initiative, provided them with some parting perspective: “What you’ve learned and accomplished today shows that you have it in you to be a part of an engineering design center just like this. You can make money and have a great career, but most importantly, you can solve problems using critical thinking.”

Video by RISD communications dept

Volunteer Shirley Wilson, senior product manager at Mitel, said “I believe mentoring comes in many different formats between different sets of people. I met colleagues, young adults looking to transition into the workforce and high-schoolers who have embarked on STEM tracks for college prep.
”No interaction is the same and that is perfect for me, because I improve my outlook on technology, my connections with others in the tech industry, and my confidence that the younger generation will carry on the spirit of innovation and human advancement,” she said.

How you can get involved
Ongoing opportunities are available to volunteer for both member companies and individuals. For more information visit or contact  Dave Galley, Tech Titans STEM initiative director at or 469-951-8239.

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