STEM Beats - Start with STEM

Guest Blog: Ashley Cowall of Booz Allen Hamilton

June 18, 2015

What first sparked your interest in STEM?
As a freshman in high school, I took Drafting to get out of the Arts requirement. I knew I liked math and science, but when the Drafting teacher recruited me on to our FIRST® Robotics Competition team, I was hooked on STEM.

What aspect of STEM is most appealing to you?
The magic. It sounds corny, but it's amazing to study the world through the lens of STEM. Numbers can tell you things about the world you never imagined. You find yourself inventing the seemingly impossible, by delving deeper into the logical wonders you learn.

Who is your “STEM hero?”
My grandmother. She was a math teacher in Detroit who focused on teaching math in a way that taught her students life skills. She used to send me math and logic puzzles, which I think was her way of getting me interested in STEM before I really understood what it was. She may not have changed STEM in a huge way, but she made it accessible to youth... a passion I continue today.

How did you decide to pursue a STEM career?
At first, it was because I liked robots. Then I realized I really enjoy solving puzzles. I started studying Operations Research ("The Science of Better") and ended up with a dream career solving puzzles at Booz Allen Hamilton. 

How do you use STEM every day?
STEM is involved in everything! From the technology we use to complete our work; the technology and engineering that goes into the processes we aim to improve; to the scientific and mathematical analysis we use to measure performance and improvement -- It's everywhere!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue STEM – for fun or for their career?
Let STEM surprise you. There is so much to learn and explore with STEM. Don't latch on to the first thing you enjoy, but keep exploring -- odds are you'll learn much more about the inter-relatedness of STEM fields and find your true passion along the way.

Ashley Cowall is an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, focusing on Process, Decision, and Advanced Data Analytics. She enjoys solving technical challenges for her consulting customers while drawing upon her STEM education. Ashley studied Operations Research at MIT, but has been involved with STEM since high school through the FIRST® Robotics Competition program. She is currently serving on FIRST’s Chesapeake Regional Planning Committee, focusing on the FIRST Stop program, as well as serving as a Judge Advisor for the State of Maryland at the FIRST Tech Challenge level of competition. In her spare time, she works with McDonogh Robotics and demos a home-made tesla coil to STEM program participants.

Tags: guest blog, Start with STEM, math

Start with STEM: Work-Based Learning

June 2, 2015

Businesses in every industry need workers with strong STEM skills, but employers often struggle to find them. One critical way to help bridge the STEM skills gap: supporting work-based learning opportunities for students during the K-12 years. Our new Work-Based Learning: An Employer's Guide is aimed at helping employers understand the ins and outs of work-based learning—and how to make it successful for businesses and students alike. This guide is designed specifically for corporate volunteer coordinators and STEM professionals who want to help K-12 students better understand STEM in the work place. It's chock-full of resources you can use as a whole, or take advantage of the pieces that most appeal to your company's objectives.

You can explore resources on Career Fairs, Classroom Visits, Company Tours, Mock Interviews, Informational Interviews, and Job Shadows to help your company get started -- or improve upon -- work-based learning for your employees and the students in your community. The guide also offers a section of resources to help plan activities that correspond with company goals and areas of experties -- giving young people the hands-on experiences that make work-based learning such valuable experiences.  

The guide is designed to help corporate leaders increase activities with the young people in the communities where they’re active and inspire them! It's all part of our Start with STEM initiative, which is aimed at reaching 1.5 million new young people this year -- and helping to build their bright futures.

Explore the guide, share within your company and/or companies with which you partner, and use it to keep giving kids a great STEM start!

Tags: Start with STEM, jobs & workforce

Guest Blog: Susie Armstrong of QUALCOMM

May 28, 2015

What first sparked your interest in STEM?
My parents.  My dad was the health inspector (he had a degree in Dairy Science), and my mom, while not a classic engineer, could fix anything – she is a great problem solver.  While my dad’s college education was interrupted by getting drafted, married and having kids, he eventually got his degree, and (probably because of this) was never any question in our house that my sister, brother and I  would do well in school, go to college, and have careers.  When I showed an interest in science and math, they encouraged it.  I’m incredibly proud of my parents and thankful for their support and push.

What aspect of STEM is most appealing to you?
Making things.  I almost shifted to Aeronatical Engineering from Computer Science in college, but I really loved the problem-solving aspects of programing and debugging, and I find that programming is “making” as well.  It is so gratifying to point to a mobile phone and say “my code makes your bits go from here to there”  (At QUALCOMM I worked on the early wireless Internet implementation).  I also do many crafts – torch worked glass, sewing, letterpress printing.

Who is your “STEM hero”?
If there is one historical person I would have loved to know, it would be Benjamin Franklin.  Obviously for all his inventions, but also because he seemed to be such a tinkerer, or a maker as we would say now.  And of course, he was a great politician and a printer!

How did you decide to pursue a STEM career?
I was planning to be a veterinarian, but was unsure I could deal with the pain and suffering of a medical field.  Then in college I took my first programing class, and was hooked.  Then later I realized I could make a living from programming.  I had 8 job offers when I graduated in 1982!

How do you use STEM every day?
Our entire world is built on STEM, from the 9 -story engineered building I work in, to the mobile I carry, to the research that went into my running shoes, to the 1914 cast iron letterpress printer I make drink coasters with.  And science has driven safe water in the drinks, which are produced and monitored with technology.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue STEM – for fun or for their career?
Realize that STEM opens up an enormous field of opportunity (e.g. veterinary medicine, computer science, aeronautical engineering!), for creativity, for a career, for making the world a better place, and for producing rather than simply consuming.   You don’t have to choose immediately, as long as you build the academic background and get involved in STEM.

Susan M. Armstrong started her work at QUALCOMM working on the early mobile Internet software. Recently, Armstrong has joined QUALCOMM’s Government Affairs group, where she brings an engineering and product background the Government Affairs work in worldwide public policy, including intellectual property protection, trade and immigration reform, STEM and STEM diversity. Armstrong holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Tags: guest blog, engineering, Start with STEM

Guest Blog: Janet Foutty of Deloitte

May 7, 2015

What first sparked your interest in STEM?
As the daughter of a scientist, it is hard to pinpoint what first sparked my interest in science and other STEM-related topics as it has always been a part of my life – from discussions around the dinner table to visits to my dad’s office at the National Institutes of Health. Over time, I pursued STEM classes because they played to my strengths of curiosity and analytical rigor, and most importantly, I liked it.

What aspect of STEM is most appealing to you?
One aspect of STEM that I find most appealing is the impactful and highly innovative work you can do. A career in STEM means you get to take on big challenges, come up with creative ideas, and work with incredibly collaborative and high-performing teams. Much of the STEM-related work I do involves interpreting data and problem solving. I love the ability to look at a problem in different ways and use data to inform decisions that help our client – the federal government – better achieve its mission.

Who is your “STEM hero?”
This is a tough question because I have gotten to meet and work with so many incredibly talented STEM professionals. I am truly amazed each day by my colleagues who bring such thoughtful and innovative ideas to help our clients. But on a more personal note, my father and my children are my favorite STEM heroes. My father is one because of his commitment to advance science for the benefit of public health. And I am proud to say that my children inherited the family love of STEM. In their academic journey so far, they have inspired and amazed me. I can’t wait to see what they do in the coming years. 

How did you decide to pursue a STEM career?
With a degree in Quantitative Business Analysis, a STEM career was a natural step for me. I found that my math skills coupled with an interest in technology was a strong combination, opening many different career doors. I also found that my STEM background gave me opportunities to do meaningful work and that was most important to me.  

How do you use STEM every day?
For most of my career, as a technology consultant working on Wall Street, STEM was at the core of what I did and it is still central to my daily responsibilities. The decisions we make at Deloitte in how we run our business and in how we advise clients depend on good data analytics. Being able to understand what the data is saying and ask good questions about it comes from my STEM education. Technology is, of course, central to how we run our business and how we can use it better and differently for our clients.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue STEM – for fun or for their career?
While a STEM education was something I was naturally drawn to, it was a challenging road at times. Some classes are more fun or easier, depending on your interests and strengths and some will be tougher. But my advice is to stick with it. Yes, you are being challenged, but you can do it, and it will be worth it. A career in STEM offers you tremendous opportunities to do impactful and innovative work with a lot of great people.

Janet Foutty is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads the Federal Government Services practice. In addition, she serves as the Federal Consulting National Managing Director. Janet is an advocate of Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative and founded Women in Technology groups in the United States and India.

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

Tags: guest blog, women & girls, Start with STEM

Guest Blog: Dr. Georgia Koutrika of Hewlett-Packard

April 9, 2015

What first sparked your interest in STEM?
This is really something that happened gradually. In third grade, we started learning equations, which seemed like a mountain of difficulty to me. My father sat down with me to teach me and he was strict and rather impatient. Despite my difficulties, I was very patient and persistent. I kept trying and trying until I got it. Later, in middle school, I had books of math, chemistry and physics outside the school curriculum, and I was reading and solving problems that most other kids of my age had not ever seen. For most young people, STEM may seem difficult and discouraging (“I do not get it; this is not for me”) while it is really like a hidden world that you need to discover and work your way through with determination. At the end, it is always rewarding.

What aspect of STEM is most appealing to you?
I think that at the end of the day, the most appealing aspect of STEM is the fun, excitement, and satisfaction that come from solving problems and discovering new things that you did not know exist. I chose computer science as my career path, and my work is all around data: data that people create on the Internet, devices (like sensors or medical devices) collect or generate, and so forth. It is always a thrilling challenge to find what is hidden in the pile of data, to make sense of it, and use it to build better devices, applications, services, and hopefully a better world.

Who is your “STEM hero”?
It is hard to pick among the many brilliant STEM minds whose contributions changed how our world looks today. Alan Turing’s life and contributions make him a true STEM hero for me. First, he formalized the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with his Turing machine and as a result he became the father of theoretical computer science. Furthermore, during the Second World War, Alan Turing’s pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements. Finally, Alan Turing is also a tragic figure since (despite his many contributions) he was prosecuted for his sexual preferences, when such behavior was still criminalized in the UK, an act that led to his suicide at the age of 42. Imagine how many more contributions he could have made. However, STEM is all about progress and there is no room for gender, race, or any other type of discrimination.

How did you decide to pursue a STEM career?
It was inevitable! Once I dived into STEM, it captured me!

How do you use STEM every day?
All of us are surrounded by miracles and advancements made possible by STEM. From being able to lift our phone and call a person in a faraway place, using cars, boats and planes to transport to once distant places, to treating diseases, and creating artificial limbs. Without STEM, we would be still living in caves. STEM is evolution.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue STEM – for fun or for their career?
Let it capture and fascinate you.

Georgia Koutrika is a senior research scientist at HP Labs. Previously, she has worked at IBM Almaden Research Center, and she was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. She holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Athens, in Greece. Her passion is extracting knowledge out of big data. She has also coauthored more than 60 articles in top-tier conferences and journals.

Tags: Start with STEM, guest blog, computer science

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