The success of any organization is built by employees with strong critical-thinking skills, good judgment and the solid problem solving necessary to respond to any challenges that may arise. In 2018, there is no corner of our lives – at work, at home or in-between – that isn’t touched by technology. That’s why it’s critical to encourage students who will become future innovators and leaders to embrace learning in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
At first glance it’s just a typical classroom full of 5th grade students learning today’s lesson. Upon closer inspection, it’s an aspiring group of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians diving into new topics and discovering new passions.
At least that’s the goal for a special 5th grade class in New Jersey. This spring semester, Western Digital became an official launch partner of TryEngineering Together (TET), an online STEM “eMentoring” volunteer program from IEEE and Cricket Media. Western Digital employees from campuses around the U.S. were matched one-on-one across distance and time zones to eMentor students from this 5th grade class. Read the press release here.
Throughout the semester, eMentors and students read the same STEM articles, from units such as “Engineering is Everywhere” and “Working with Wind Energy”, and write letters to each other about the articles through a digital dashboard. In the classroom, the students discuss the articles and also engage in hands-on STEM activities. The goal is to increase the students’ STEM knowledge, inspire deeper analysis, and provoke advanced learning.
Creating Opportunities for Mentors & Kids
While it’s true that a STEM degree is required for many careers, it can also open the door to other opportunities, because many different parts of today’s connected life benefit greatly from — and often require — some level of STEM knowledge.
Western Digital chose to partner with TET because this innovative program helps children to develop their problem-solving skills while collaborating with our employee volunteers, who value the experience just as much.
“Both as an engineer and a patent attorney, I’ve found that analytical skills give you insights on how to solve specific technical issues to make your technology better or solve the larger societal issues,” shared Loretta Peters, a Western Digital employee and TET volunteer. “I have taught college-level science courses, but it is not as impactful as teaching elementary students in terms of giving them self-confidence and consequently a rewarding career choice by having them gain reading and communications skills, grasp the engineering design process and learn basic computational skills. By participating in the TET program, we are creating the building blocks for critical thinking and problem solving in these students.”
Giving Back to Our Communities
STEM education is one of Western Digital’s main philanthropic pillars, and the TET program is directly aligned with our pursuit to level the academic playing field by making sure we help under-privileged and underrepresented youth.
We are also excited to offer this opportunity through Western Digital’s volunteer program because it allows employees across the U.S. to have a shared meaningful experience in eMentoring, while its online nature allows students the opportunity to receive mentorship from professionals who may be too busy to leave their desks and share their expertise during normal school hours.
Through the TET program, our employees are helping to spark innovative thinking and clear a new path of success for these students. eMentoring is a great step to support local communities, engage employees and live out our mission to show how much we care.
Ashley Hauger is a communications specialist and blog author.