STEM Beats - February 2016

Guest Blog: Danielle Brown, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Intel Corporation

February 26, 2016

Intel Progresses Toward Inclusive Future

Danielle Brown, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Intel Corporation

National Engineers Week is upon us, and it is a great time to raise awareness and interest in engineering and technology careers — and the possibilities that they offer.

At Intel, technology and engineering are part of our DNA and we believe a diverse engineering workforce is critical to driving continued innovation and growth in our industry. To achieve our industry’s true potential, we must strive to build and continually foster a culture that is broadly representative and inclusive of all kinds of diversity, including, but not limited to, gender and ethnicity. Only through a collective and unified effort will we be able to effectively accomplish this.

Earlier this month, Intel released the 2015 Diversity & Inclusion Report that outlines our progress toward achieving a goal to achieve full representation in our U.S. workforce by 2020, and provides an update on our investments to support Diversity & Inclusion in our workforce and our industry at large. While we exceeded our annual hiring goal, achieved our overall retention goal, and achieved 100 percent gender pay parity across U.S. job types and job levels, we still have a great deal of work and opportunity ahead of us.

A key component of our strategy is building and strengthening the pipeline of women and underrepresented minorities who are interested in pursuing technology and engineering careers. As part of our $300 million commitment to support diversity and inclusion in technology, we have invested in numerous pipeline programs and partnerships focused on attracting a more diverse pool of candidates to the technology industry. Through a multi-pronged approach of education initiatives, financial assistance and internship and job opportunities that offer concrete work experience and an opportunity to develop technical skills, Intel is paving the way for people to enter and succeed in tech careers like engineering and computer science.

These programs include an investment of $5 million in the Oakland Unified School District over the next five years to implement a comprehensive, education transformation solution, apartnership with the Science Foundation of Arizona and the Navajo Nation to implement a comprehensive education transformation at three Arizona high schools, the Latinos in Technology Scholarship Initiative that provides $3.75 million in scholarships to Latino college students, and an investment of $5 million in a Georgia Institute of Technology program designed to build a pipeline of diverse engineers.

This week, we are thrilled to announce a new partnership with San Francisco-based CODE2040.

As part of the initiative, Intel is investing $1.3 million over the course of three years to support CODE2040’s Fellows and Technical Application Prep (TAP) Programs, which aim to inspire and support more women and underrepresented minorities to earn technical degrees. The effort aims to bridge the gap between education and employment through providing mentoring, resume prep and internship guidance. In 2016 and 2017, Intel will host a total of 60 student interns from the CODE2040 Fellows Program at its Santa Clara campus in order to provide an immersive experience and one-on-one mentorship with our top engineers. In support of the CODE2040 TAP Program, Intel will also host students for part of the five day Tech Trek, which will launch this year with support from Intel.

The skills of the workforce of the future will depend as much on curiosity, creation and design as technical aptitude. To encourage girls’ curiosity and interest in STEM, we are excited to embark on another new partnership with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. This partnership will include a series of activities in 2016 that will include college campus visits, design ideation camps and hackathons designed to connect these young women to role models and career opportunities in STEM. By constructing events that highlight the creative opportunities that exist in technology, Intel and Rebecca Minkoff are working to expand the pipeline of future female engineers. For example, earlier this week, Rebecca Minkoff and Sandra Lopez from Intel’s New Devices Group hosted a Reddit AMA where they discussed how they see technology driving innovation in fashion, and the creative opportunities for women in technology.

At Oakland Unified School District, we are launching our Intel ambassadors’ mentoring program for students who have selected STEM education pathways. We feel that we can positively impact the school district’s retention rate by engaging students in services such as mentoring. And for the first time in Intel’s history, we will host OUSD students at the Intel Education Services Corps’ three-week immersive experience in the U.S. this summer. Employees across the world will converge in Oakland to meet with OUSD students and show them one-on-one about the professional opportunities that await them in computer science.

National Engineers Week presents a special time to shine a spotlight on an exciting, evolving field that is growing exponentially more transformative and significant every day. Our programs and investments aim to create awareness and opportunity for students, to build the pipeline of talent for the future of our industry. At Intel, our passion for engineering extends year-round as we remain committed to creating the tools, resources and programs that will continue to attract women and underrepresented minorities to the exciting possibilities of a career in technology and engineering.

Danielle Brown is Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Intel Corporation. This blog also appeared on the Intel website on February 24, 2016.

Tags: diversity, minorities, engineering, guest blog, women & girls

Guest Blog: Brandon Lewis, Project Lead The Way Launch Master Teacher

February 25, 2016

We All Can Be Engineers

Brandon LewisFrom inside the walls of an elementary school, engineering looks very different compared to the rest of the world. My job is to make something that can be very complex seem much simpler.

I’m doing this through PLTW Launch, a K-5 program that creates a hands-on, integrated learning experience that blends computer science, engineering, biomedical science, and more.

The modules I focus on in PLTW Launch solve real-world problems using robots. While my students enjoy activities such as researching how robots make life easier for humans, their engagement reaches new heights when they build and control their own robots to solve a real-world problem. Students take their robots and program them, using block coding, to make them run autonomously. You’ve never seen an 11-year-old excited until you see their reaction after their robot successfully removes “hazardous waste” from a self-constructed waste site!

PLTW Launch

Students are now receiving life-changing opportunities like these for the first time in elementary school instead of their first year of college. Thanks to Project Lead The Way, I have students who leave elementary school demanding more engineering classes at the next level. I have students who say they’ve changed their mind about their future, and now they want to be an engineer. Without PLTW, engineering would still be a foreign concept to my students. The opportunities they’ve been given have now made this a viable pathway for them and their future.

I thought it was comical when I was first approached about teaching engineering. It wasn’t me. I didn’t think that way.

I quickly realized how wrong I was. Everyone can think in this way, and everyone deserves the opportunity to think in this way. I don’t want anyone to sell themselves short. Just like I tell my students: We all can be engineers.

Brandon Lewis is a 5th grade teacher at Lewis & Clark Elementary in Liberty, Missouri. He has been a PLTW Launch Master Teacher for two years. To learn more about PLTW Launch or Project Lead The Way’s K-12 engineering pathway, please visit

Tags: guest blog, engineering

Engineers Week Guest Blog: Marisa Wolsky of Design Squad

February 24, 2016

Marisa Wolsky headshotHow is your program bringing engineering to life for students?

Design Squad provides kids ages eight to 13 with one of the only places on the web where they can safely share their engineering ideas and activities with kids from around the world. In the last year alone, we have received over 100,000 ideas for engineering projects from kids. At the website (, kids can also play games, take on global challenges, or watch videos. Offline, Design Squad’s 68 hands-on engineering activities combine real-world problems with accessible materials, enabling kids to think like engineers.

More than 8,000 programs have used Design Squad’s educational materials, which include: 8 educators’ guides; an introduction to engineering PD course for the Massachusetts Department of Education; an online workshop in partnership with NASA on leading engineering activities; and a year-long high school freshman course. In Fall 2016, we will launch Design Squad Global Clubs, connecting middle school-aged kids in out-of-school programs around the world. Led by an engineer or educator, the Clubs aim to build kids’ global competency as they work together on engineering projects that meet needs in their communities. A DSG Club Guide will provide Club Leaders with professional development videos and support as they guide kids through engineering activities.

What aspects of engineering do students find most compelling as they’re learning?

It is our belief that young people don’t understand the rewards of an engineering career and therefore don’t consider it an option. This conclusion was drawn from research conducted for WGBH’s NSF-funded project Engineer Your Life. Through this project, WGBH learned that messages about engineering—which disproportionately emphasize the extraordinary math and science skills needed and the challenges inherent in these jobs—are off-putting. To get kids interested, the engineering community needs to emphasize the teamwork, social benefits, and creativity of engineering, which is exactly what Design Squad is doing.

How is Design Squad’s engineering efforts getting young people involved in the field?

Evaluations have confirmed the project’s impact on children’s attitudes towards and knowledge of engineering. A summative evaluation demonstrated that after watching only four episodes, students had a strong understanding of the featured engineering concepts, increased their design process skills, and changed their stereotypes about engineering—for the better. Even more impressive, nearly two-thirds of the children were interested in participating in an engineering afterschool program after viewing, compared to just below one-third prior to viewing. Subsequent evaluation found that children exposed to Design Squad demonstrated significant gains in their understanding of key science concepts and improved their attitudes about engineering stereotypes as compared to a control group.

What’s one piece of advice you have for someone interested in engineering?

Nate Ball, co-host of Design Squad, is an inventor, entrepreneur, athlete, musician, and PBS personality whose fascination with engineering and experimentation started early. His childhood projects included building kayaks, a hovercraft, potato guns, a Tesla coil, and even burning the family kitchen in a rocket fuel experiment gone awry. Here is his advice for someone interested in engineering:

“Practice and enjoy the design process! I bet you have a lot of ideas to improve the world around you. Being able to solve problems is a wonderful thing, and the design process is how engineers get to work actually solving them! Practice getting specific about identifying the problem you want to solve—then brainstorm, design, build, test, and redesign till it works. If you run into trouble, don't get too frustrated—it's just an opportunity to learn how to improve how you solve the problem. It can get really fun, and like anything worthwhile, you'll get even better with more experience. So get out there and start brainstorming!”

Marisa Wolsky is an Executive Producer at WGBH Educational Foundation with over 20 years of experience turning STEM content into entertaining and educational media for kids.

Tags: guest blog, engineering

Engineering Talent Hidden in Plain Sight

February 22, 2016

As the nation kicks off Engineers Week, organizations across the country are celebrating the engineers who have made the world a safer, healthier, more prosperous, and more humane place to live. That is as it should be. It is just as important, however, to acknowledge how the nation is squandering talent that could engineer solutions to our most daunting global challenges. Much of our nation’s talent is hidden in plain sight: people of color who lack the opportunities to join the ranks of the nation’s leading innovators.

Tens of thousands of black and Latino tenth-graders are high performers in math:

High Flyers Left Behind

Yet Black and Latino students often attend schools that do not even offer challenging STEM courses:

Barriers to Calculus and Physics

Talented Black students are particularly unlikely to take Advanced Placement tests in STEM subjects, either because they lack access to AP classes or because they lack the confidence to take those classes:

Opportunity Lost

The results of  are predictable: Talented Black and Latino students leave the pathways to engineering degrees and certificates.

Underrepresented minorities in engineering

Now let’s imagine, for a moment, that these barriers did not exist, and Black and Latino Americans were fully represented in the engineering workforce.

 Untapped minority talent in engineering

That would be nearly half a million more innovators who could help create the next revolution in building, energy, transportation, air travel, space exploration, communication, or any other field that determines how we live our lives and imagine our futures. We cannot let so much human talent go to waste.

To explore effective STEM initiatives that are putting more students of color on a pathway to engineering, visit our STEMworks honor roll of effective STEM education programs.

Tags: engineering, minorities

Guest Blog: E.K. Ellington Scott

February 8, 2016

Tell us a little about yourself…how did you get your STEM start?
My exploration into STEM started with my childhood fascination with Leonardo da Vinci. I studied his technical sketches as if they were my own. His was the first mind I studied to forge the connection between the arts and STEM. Leonardo da Vinci’s imagination even led to the invention of musical instruments, many of which have been built and explored in today’s music.

How did you first find the connection between engineering and music?
I was finally able to put the two pieces of the puzzle together when I saw a robot programed to play the drums. There were only a few simple rhythms programmed, but it fortified my interest to meld my two passions. Recently, I had the opportunity to explore this connection in my own work when I conducted independent research in the field of musical acoustics with Acoustical Society of America fellow Dr. James Cottingham.  I investigated the transient modes of snare drum head vibrations examining how they are manipulated using different drumming techniques.

What experience did you have that led you to seek a career as an acoustical designer?
It was the WORST concert of my life; there was nothing the musicians, the sound engineers or the audience could do.  The building was brand new and supposedly designed to be ready for any musicians’ fury. However, the doors would not close to keep environmental noise from disturbing the performance. The mechanical system was overpowering the bass. The floor was even vibrating from passing traffic…it was the worst concert of my life.

Who is your STEM Hero?
My biggest influence has been pianist Herbert Jeffrey “Herbie” Hancock.  He holds degrees in both Electrical Engineering and Music. Although many people only know of his work in jazz, he has been at the forefront of technology dealing with music processing and electronic music. His work with electronics has always dealt with the interplay between music and science in order to preserve creativity within improvisation. His work has developed synthesizers, voice processing and even dismissed the boundaries originally placed on genres. I also always search for those who believe they do not have to select between their passions of performance and STEM: I am inspired by Vijay Iyer, Eddie Henderson, Dana Hawkins, Rob Schneiderman, Jacob Baron, Chris Blair (just to name a few).

Do you have any helpful advice for young people who are interested in finding their passion in STEM?
Bring STEM back home with you. If you think of STEM as one of the many tasks of your school day, it will never develop into a passion. Integrate STEM into your everyday routine. It should be as essential to you as breathing.

E.K. Ellington Scott is an acoustic consultant at Akustiks, LLC. His work has focused on computer modelling and analysis of various projects. He is a recent graduate of Oberlin College & Conservatory. He holds a double degree in Physics and Jazz Studies with a concentration in Jazz percussion performance. He hails from Staunton, Virginia.

Tags: guest blog, engineering