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Deconstructing Electronics for Middle School Girls

Engineer Jennifer Devin Gives Hands-on Workshop on the Wafers Inside… of Everything

By Jessica Gomez

When Rogue Valley Microdevices Engineer Jennifer Devin was in middle school, she was always interested in math and science but she didn’t know which careers were open to her until she went to college.

That’s one thing that makes the Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering, and Math (AWSEM) Symposium so meaningful for the middle school girls who participate, according to Devin, who said that she would have loved attending the AWSEM Symposium when she was growing up — had something like it existed. “The AWSEM Symposium exposes middle school girls to a wide variety of careers in STEM,” said Devin. “I wanted them to experience what it is like to work in an up-and-coming industry like MEMS because it is not an industry that they would typically hear about in school. MEMS help to enhance electronic products like smartphones, wearables, automotive safety systems, smart biomedical systems and video game controllers. These tiny chips enable engineers to build intelligence and interactivity into everyday products that make the user experience so compelling. It is an industry and technology that is well worth learning about.”

Devin, who as a child always like science experiments, especially appreciated the interactive focus of the AWSEM Symposium. “AWSEM works hard to provide a hands-on approach to engaging with scientific and technical material,” she said.

During Devin’s workshop, Developing the Future, she discussed how Rogue Valley Microdevices produces silicon chips for smartphones, biomedical devices and other systems, figuratively deconstructing for attendees how electronics work. “Since most people are unfamiliar with the innerworkings of smartphones and other electronic products, I provided each girl a wafer pre-patterned with the AWSEM logo. The girls used a developer chemical to make the pattern visible on the chip – which they got to take home,” said Devin.

Wafers at Rogue Valley Microdevices

“I knew that the girls were interested because they enthusiastically set up the experiment to develop their wafers,” offered Devin. “They also asked how I got involved in this industry — which was through the MECOP internship — and they asked a slew of technical questions about silicon chips.”

2018 AWSEM Symposium Attendees – Source: SOU Youth Programs

“This year’s AWSEM Symposium attendees enjoyed workshops from a broad range of professional women in STEM-focused careers,” said Rachel Jones, director, Southern Oregon University (SOU) Pre-College Youth Programs. “In addition to Jennifer Devin, we had a wildlife biologist, two forensic wildlife scientists, a firefighter, commercial airline pilot, botanist, two healthcare professionals, and OSU professors in chemistry and in computer science. Year after year, the enthusiasm that we witness on our attendees’ faces shows that middle school girls become excited about STEM careers when women mentors help them to envision the future.”

The AWSEM Symposium is a one-day symposium intended to motivate middle school girls to pursue higher education and STEM careers. The AWSEM program introduces middle school girls to professional women role models, providing an opportunity for girls to participate in a variety of experiences related to these fields. For more information about AWSEM, visit: Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering & Mathematics (AWSEM) Symposium for Middle School Girls