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How can engineering-driven companies inspire our youth to pursue careers in STEM?

As CEO of a MEMS foundry, I know first-hand the importance of a well-educated engineering team. They are the lifeblood of my company on so many levels. They collaborate with and support our customers. They drive the company’s expansion roadmap. They ensure that we fulfill our promises to customers and industry partners.

Well beyond the scope of Rogue Valley Microdevices, engineers are critical to our quality of life.  Smart homes and cities, precision agriculture, life-saving/life-enhancing medical devices, cleaner energy, safer automobiles, and more intelligent and immersive consumer electronics are all developed by engineers dedicated to providing innovation solutions.

STEM education gives technology companies the opportunity to join an organized movement that is in support of the next generation of engineers.  That’s why Rogue Valley Microdevices offered an alternative tradeshow giveaway at SEMICON West 2016.

I wrote about that giveaway–a complete LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Curriculum Solution, the person who won it and the educational institution that will use it in the classroom this year in my Fabricating the Future blog from EDN. Please read on for more.

*Reprinted with permission by EDN, September 28, 2016.

https://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/fabricating-the-future/4442771/Trade-show-giveaways-can-pay-it-forward

Trade show giveaways can pay it forward

Jessica Gomez -September 28, 2016

We recently made a decision to approach our presence at SEMICON West a little differently this year. Of course, we wanted to highlight our capabilities, and we did. But as many of you know, the clincher to exhibiting at tradeshows is to attract attendees to the booth in order to have the discussions that make the cost and time investment worthwhile.

Typically, attendees graze a show floor for zoomy trinkets, their next month’s supply of pens, hard candy, and fluffy toy critters to take to their children. At the high end of giveaways, companies may raffle off an iPhone or some other gadget. Exhibitors spend a small fortune purchasing, transporting, and storing booth come-ons. At Rogue Valley Microdevices, we have long been dedicated to furthering STEM education, so instead of offering predictable plastic-based doodads, we offered show attendees a chance to win a complete LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Curriculum Solution. For the mere cost of a business card, the winner of our booth drawing would be able to proudly donate the system in his/her own name to the educational institution of his/her choice. We couldn’t have found a more perfect winner.

Aaron King-Caprino is the epitome of what we are hoping to achieve through the award. In his sophomore year at San Jose State, the mechanical engineering major is planning a career in mechatronics. The recipient school to which Aaron is donating the MINDSTORMS system is the University Preparatory Academy in San Jose, the charter school that motivated him to pursue his own dreams in engineering.

“I have a friend who said, make sure you have a business card before you go to SEMICON,” said Aaron. “I just stumbled upon the Rogue Valley booth while walking around and thought about my old high school and its Project Lead The Way program. If LEGO MINDSTORMS had been available to me when I was in middle school, I would have gotten a better understanding of robotics and how everything actually works. LEGOs are something we’ve had since we were kids, so they aren’t intimidating. When I told my former teacher, Tom Guevara, that I won, he was ecstatic and interested in the possibilities, especially the ability to go into the more complicated aspects of robotics.”

University_Preparatory_Academy_STEM_Lego_Rogue_Valley

Left to right: Tom Guevara, Aaron King-Caprino, Jessica Gomez, and her daughter (possibly a budding engineer) after delivering the LEGO MINDSTORMS Solution to the University Preparatory Academy in San Jose, CA.

 

The University Preparatory Academy charter school opened its doors in 2007 with 192 students. The charter school’s mission is to prepare a diverse population of 7-12th grade students to enter and excel in the best colleges and universities in the nation with training to assume leadership positions in their community. The student body numbers 550.

I was able to hand-deliver the LEGO MINDSTORMS Solution to the academy, meeting with Aaron and Tom, the school’s tech supervisor and Project Lead The Way (PLTW) coordinator. Tom was ecstatic at the news of Aaron’s gift and thrilled to be able to have students delve into the more complicated aspects of robotics.

“We started in 2007, and for the first three years, the school functioned on donations of equipment/learning tools and infrastructure as we steadily built our community relationships,” Tom said. “In 2010 we began to make some modest investments, and two years ago, we reached mature institution status. Last year, the school was honored to achieve a No. 4 ranking in the State of California from U.S. News and World Report, and we were in the top 20 nationally.”

Lego_Mindstorms_EV3_education
The LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Curriculum Solution represents a complete platform for teaching computer science/STEM subjects using robotics. It includes LEGO bricks and elements, lesson plans, and assessment tools for a complete teaching system. Through its hands-on approach to STEM education, LEGO MINDSTORMS promotes the ability of students to understand forces and motion as they design, build, and program a complete and fully functioning robotic system that exhibits complex thinking.

While Aaron won by visiting our booth and adding his business card to the raffle, we all won. That’s the beauty of offering this type of pay-it-forward prize. Aaron donated the system proudly, the school’s faculty are excited to use it in the classroom, the students who use it will gain a better understanding of robotics, and the tech industry companies who will one day employ those students gain a well-educated workforce who understand applied design. For us, this year’s booth giveaway was so much better than adding more fodder for grazing.