The future of STEM: How we are empowering girls to be tomorrow’s innovators

Student learns coding during day of STEM at TIAna Saucedo wants to learn how things work, how technology is created and how professionals build their careers.

“I’m really curious about how things are made,” said Ana, who will be a high school junior at Townview Magnet Center in Dallas. “Having a hands-on experience allows you to ask questions and understand technology better.”

Ana was one of about 90 middle- and high-school girls from the Dallas area who recently visited our headquarters in Dallas  to meet women who work in senior technical roles, learn more about engineering and innovation, get hands-on experience programming with our TI-Nspire™ technology and TI-Innovator™ Hub, and handle chips, boards and some of the products our customers create.

 Ana's T-shirt“When I told my friends that I wanted to be an engineer, they thought I’d be in a lab all day,” Ana said. “Coming to TI helped me see there’s more to it – working with different teams, talking to customers, traveling and managing the business. It looks even better than I thought it would.”

The interactive program that reinforced Ana’s interest in a technical career was sponsored by our Texas Instruments Women’s Initiative Network, which played host to underrepresented students from schools in the Young Women’s Preparatory Network and the High Tech High Heels Design Connect Create Camp. Women in engineering and technical leadership at our company led career and technology sessions, mentored students, and talked to them about their college and career plans.

The future of STEM: How we are empowering girls to be tomorrow’s innovators“For our girls, there’s only so much learning you can do in the classroom,” said Karla Stack, chief program officer at the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, which provides private funding for eight public schools in Texas. “It’s important for them to see real-life women engineers who look like them. We want to make sure the girls have a chance to hear from women who are pursuing careers in STEM. Many of our girls come from low-income homes and will be the first members of their families to attend college. We want to make sure that they see women succeeding in their careers and that they understand they can pursue similar opportunities.”

“We wanted to expose girls to careers in science, technology, engineering and math and give them a chance to experience the real world of engineering,” said Patty Arellano, director of STEM education and outreach at our company. “Many people don’t know what an engineer does, so giving girls an opportunity to hear from and meet successful women who look like them can help get them interested in STEM careers.”

But the girls weren’t the only people learning at the recent event. Emilio Granado and Lynn Burleigh – both computer-science teachers at smaller Texas school districts – represented a group of teachers who want to learn how corporations use technology so they can keep their classes current.

The future of STEM: How we are empowering girls to be tomorrow’s innovators“It’s important to keep our students ahead of the learning curve because technology advances so fast,” Emilio said. “We’re learning about cutting-edge technology for our classrooms. The exposure we’re getting is huge, and we’ll take what we learn back to our colleagues.”

Teachers and students alike agreed that hands-on learning is essential. 

“The hands-on experience allows you to ask even more questions,” Ana said. “Touching the technology helps you understand what you’re learning and do even more.”

“Once students feel it, touch it and create it, they own it. And they don’t have to recall it because it becomes a part of who they are,” Lynn said. “With engineering or anything else that’s hands-on, once you create and own something, you become powerful.”

If you want to learn more about what an engineer does and how to become one, visit Teachers, here are some STEM resources for your classroom.