Tech Titans creates hands-on activities during SMARTgirls STEM Camp
Tech Titans and Qorvo sponsored three days of SMARTgirls summer camp at Davis Intermediate in Wylie during the summer. The focus of the week-long camp was building awareness of STEM opportunities and careers among rising fifth, sixth and seventh grade girls.
Thanks to the talent of several Tech Titans volunteers and the generous sponsorship of Qorvo, 29 girls learned about aerospace engineering, robotics, coding, electrical engineering and engineering design principles through presentations, exercises and a field trip to Qorvo. Here’s an overview of their memorable camp experience:
Social Media Day Working in teams, the girls selected a product and a celebrity brand ambassador. Wylie ISD provided a Chromebook for each participant to use during the project. Their choices were evaluated using data analytics by MPVIndex.
“I learned more from these young ladies about Big Data then from my peers!” said camp volunteer Lymari Ames, program manager at Cisco Systems and a Tech Titans STEM team member. “They have many fresh ideas on how to interpret data.”
The social media program also focused on being good digital citizens and the reality that on social media, consumers are the product.
Engineering Design Day Lynn Mortensen, a retired executive from Raytheon and member of the Tech Titans STEM team, talked about STEM career opportunities and explained the engineering design process. She emphasized that failure is ok – first attempts are seldom successful -and explained the concept of “iterating the design” to create the best product possible.
“I get great satisfaction volunteering at a camp like SMARTgirls where our team can give the students a fun, hands-on STEM experience and also share what it’s like to have a STEM career,” said Lynn. “We need these students to embrace a STEM career, and I'm excited to share my knowledge with them.”
“There are more than 100 types of engineers who identify and solve problems,” Bob Hill, On Point Ideation and vice chair of Talent for Tech Titans told the girls. He talked to them specifically about STEM careers in product management and technical sales, explaining that those jobs require talking to customers about their requirements, developing product descriptions, creating cost estimates and working with engineers to create technical products.
The girls then teamed up for “Float Your Boat,” putting concepts of buoyancy, displacement and design into practice, constructing flat-bottomed foil boats to support a “cargo” of pennies without sinking. Following a flurry of creating and testing design concepts, teams competed to float the most pennies.
“The exercises are so engaging that participants learn to apply STEM concepts without realizing they are learning!” said Dave Galley, director of the Tech Titans STEM initiative.
Tour Day at Qorvo The last day of the camp was hosted by semiconductor manufacturer Qorvo at their Richardson facility.
“Not all kids are able to secure an internship,” said Dave. “Tech Titans camps provide job shadowing opportunities like this that counts as credit toward high school graduation requirements.”
Katie Caballero of Qorvo introduced the company to the girls the day before the tour. They researched a list of terms and industry-specific topics. “Everyone at Qorvo is very invested in this program,” said Katie. “The point of the exercise is for them to understand what Qorvo does, what it makes, to be prepared for the tour and ready to ask questions.”
Wearing Qorvo caps and shirts, the girls were welcomed at the company by Marvin Harris, foundry engineer at Qorvo and Tech Titans STEM corporate champion, and his boss, Vijay Balakrishna, senior director of research, infrastructure and defense products. Vijay, who has two daughters of his own, told the girls, “You can do lots of things with an engineering degree; you get to do cool stuff. You can make money and have job security. You can even be a superhero by protecting the world.”
The girls toured the facility and labs, watched employees using electron microscopes, viewed cross-sections of wafers and observed employees working in clean rooms. Qorvo employees led the tours, explaining department activities and manufacturing processes while encouraging questions.
After the tour, Qorvo engineers and interns presented a “Successful Women in Technology” panel while the girls enjoyed lunch. Panelists shared their experiences studying STEM subjects in high school, college and graduate school and their advice, including, “don’t be afraid of trying hard classes.”
The day concluded with an engineering exercise that took them from prototype design through manufacturing: a paper airplane competition designed by Harris. Teams strategized, built and tested prototypes, chose the best one and then tried to mass produce it. The goal: fly as many planes as possible over the finish line.
Competition was fierce. The learning? The best combination of design + production wins!
Takeaways At the end of the week, we asked the girls what they had learned. They said:
- “There are lots of choices. Lots of possibilities.”
- “It’s ok to fail.”
- “Don’t give up.”
- “Try hard things, even if you don’t think you’re going to be good at something.”
- “There are lots of career opportunities in STEM.”