Sparking the Interest of Future Technologists
2018-11-27 | 9 min read
The U.S. Department of Commerce calculated that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations grew at a rate of 24.4%, while other occupations grew at a rate of 4.0% over the last decade. Yet according to a Pew Research article, United States students are consistently behind other advanced industrial countries in mathematics and science scores. If this continues, the technology industry in the U.S. could experience a dearth of skilled STEM workers in the future, impacting innovation in the next generation. To address this potential shortfall and support long-term community vitality, it is imperative to reach as many grade school students as possible now to engage them in STEM career paths for the future.
In this post, I want to highlight how corporations can quickly extend the reach of science engagement to more students by participating in community STEM events — thereby helping support development of our collective future workforce and local communities.
Increasing reach to spark scientific interest
At Keysight, we recognize our role in bringing scientific concepts to children early in their education, and we use a variety of methods to do so. While we support an immersive, classroom-focused science experiment engagement through our Keysight After School program, we have found that sponsorship and participation in community science events provides the opportunity to engage tens of thousands of students and their families in a single day! The breadth of these community science events — representing multiple science disciplines, educational institutions, companies and non-profit organizations — allows us access to a large student audience to help spark an interest in science that could lead to future careers.
Recently, two of Keysight’s largest U.S. sites (Santa Rosa, California headquarters and Colorado Springs, Colorado) sponsored and participated in local science events in their respective communities. Both events provided free family-friendly opportunities for students, their families and teachers to learn about STEM technologies, as well as the careers and pathways to enter these fields. Essentially like giant science fairs, the events featured hundreds of opportunities for kids of all ages to discover the wonder of science through hands-on activities. In total, these two events brought together upwards of 15,000 attendees to interact with about 200 STEM-based presentations, experiments and information booths.
For Keysight’s part, the company donated funds to support both events, and company volunteers led hands-on experiments and showcased our products to provide attendees a better understanding of various technologies. In addition, volunteers were able to highlight their roles in the company to inspire young people to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields.
In Colorado Springs, the local Keysight team participated in the Colorado Springs' Cool Science Festival Carnival day. The event was sponsored by Cool Science and held at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Keysight had a demonstration room where employees and their family members shared the wonders of science, targeting age groups from 5 to 18 years old. Demonstrations ranged from simple light games to an oscilloscope display which was used to show kids what different acoustic sounds, including their voices, looked like electrically.
In Santa Rosa, 25 Keysight volunteers participated in the North Bay Science Discovery Day (NBSDD), an event that the company has sponsored as a founding member since its inception in 2011. At the event, company volunteers featured six exhibits ranging in complexity from a pendulum to an explanation of special relativity and space-time. Several Keysight instruments were also on display for a demonstration of how a cell phone works, what a directional antenna does, how remote controls work and what a thermal camera sees.
Sparking generational conversations
While the attendee numbers are impressive at these single-day events, what has struck me is the generational reach that these events represent as well. Having worked out of both Keysight’s Colorado Springs and Santa Rosa sites over the years, I have participated in these events and have seen first-hand how they have an impact beyond the students.
You see, students don’t come to the events alone. They are accompanied by their friends, siblings, parents and sometimes even grandparents. This helps start conversations with parents about new, different and emerging opportunities for their kids’ futures. In fact, many of our employees not directly volunteering at these events take their kids and grandkids to help them understand what they do at the company and the role STEM plays in their everyday lives. It is really quite something to watch as families engage at these events.
Speaking of generational reach, the Keysight contingent of volunteers at the Santa Rosa event was multi-generational too. Along with current Keysight employees, some retirees joined the group to show how science interests go far beyond someone’s career. On the other end of the spectrum, there were junior college and local high school students on the team as well, participating in a mini-internship that included volunteering with Keysight for the day. We literally had a contingent that spanned from high school and secondary school through current working employees and even retirees.
Forging partnerships to increase impact
Such reach is only possible by partnering with local nonprofits, educational institutions and other companies that share the common goal of inspiring the next generation of innovators. I often tout the role of partnerships and their potent social impact. These science events are another excellent example. While the actions of a single company can make a difference — and I encourage all corporations to consider their individual roles — sponsorship and partnership opportunities like these helps extend the reach of STEM education to grade school students while providing a positive community impact.
For Keysight, participating in these community science events has been an excellent way to share our passion for technology with our broader local communities. It also makes clear that, while alone we can make a difference, partnering with others makes much more possible!
As Dave Cipriani, Keysight Vice President and General Manager of the Digital and Photonics Center of Excellence and a Cool Science board member stated, “It’s wonderful to see a student’s interest spark when science is presented in an interesting, hands-on way. By partnering with our local educators and nonprofits, we can reach thousands of children and hopefully spark an interest in STEM.”I share Dave’s sentiment and look forward to continuing to build STEM interest and careers in these future technologists, the much-needed problem solvers of tomorrow.