The Science of Success
Bay Area’s premier team-design competition inspires students to pursue careers in science
Latino Youth Prepare for High-Tech Future by Taking on The Tech Challenge
SAN JOSE, CA – Fact: Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States. Fact: The fastest growing job markets in the country are in science, technology, engineering and math.
Yet, as Latinos enter the labor market, continuing to help drive the economy in increasingly large numbers, there is one road that is often untraveled: the influential, far-reaching science and technology sector.
But hard at work in a humble community center in the shadows of Silicon Valley is an inspired band of young would-be techies bent on ending the dearth of Latinos in the sciences. Here, the youths are busily preparing for The Tech Museum’s annual team-design competition: The Tech Challenge.
The Third Street Community center has fielded between four and eight The Tech Challenge teams for the past six years through its Young Engineers Program. The students are paired with engineering majors from Stanford University and San Jose State University. Beginning in January the teams are coached, mentored and cheered through the competition on April 21.
Said Horace Mann Elementary fifth-grader Elian: “I feel I am prepared for the Tech Challenge because I know all the strategies on how to build a strong structure, and I have the help of my team mates. I am excited about The Tech Challenge because we might have a chance of winning.”
The Tech Challenge, presented by Cisco, introduces and reinforces the scientific and engineering process with a hands-on project geared to solving a real-world problem. This year’s theme: Shake, Rattle and Rescue. Teams of students in grades 5-12 must create a solution to help earthquake survivors after a tremor severely damages a bridge. The competition, which celebrates its 25th year, is designed to inspire the next generation of innovators and provide months of team learning in science, engineering, and math.
“Lots of the students here have the potential,” Rosemary Baez, executive director of the Center, said. “They just haven’t had the opportunity. However, by the end of the program, we can see that their self-confidence and sense of accomplishment have grown. There’s a real feeling of ‘I did it!”’
While The Tech Challenge reinforces 21st century skills of creativity, problem solving, teamwork, leadership and risk-taking, it ultimately conveys the relevance of science and technology education to our local, national and global economy and communicates the real and potential impacts of technology on our everyday lives.
“One of the hardest things for us to do is to keep encouraging the kids – and their parents,” Baez added. “The adults need to know – and really believe – that their kids can do this. Once that happens, we’ve found that they’re encouraging their children to take science courses that they normally wouldn’t have.”
As the world economy becomes increasingly driven by technology, it is important to break down barriers early on and to introduce and encourage students to the field through events such as The Tech Challenge and other school-related opportunities. That Latinos have been traditionally underrepresented in the field has provoked an action plan to remedy the situation from President Obama to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all of whom worry that absent more professionals in these fields, the U.S. will fall short of full economic equality and opportunity in an increasingly competitive world.
Toward that end, the partnership between Third Street Community Center, university engineering students, the museum and Cisco is yielding increasing success, Baez said, adding that entire families – not just students – have a deeper appreciation for the sciences once they’re exposed to the myriad possibilities just waiting to be tapped.
“I really like computer science. I want to be an engineer,” said Elmer, a San Jose 8th-grader who is entering his third The Tech Challenge. “This program helps me learn about tools and how to be more creative.”
Click here for more information on The Tech Challenge.
View the highlight video of The Tech Challenge.
Other corporate sponsors include: SAP, Intel, EMC, JPMorgan Chase, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Fairchild Semiconductor, Wells Fargo, Tellabs Foundation, Xilinx, Ernst & Young, The Tech Museum's Emeritus Board, Amgen, VMware, Genentech, Symantec, SanDisk, TE Connectivity, Flextronics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, AMD, PMC-Sierra, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, ScholarShare, The David H. Liu Foundation, SVForum Tech Women's Program, Team San Jose, NBC Bay Area, KTSF, Make: makezine.com, Bay Area News Group.
Director of Public Relations
About The Tech Museum
The Tech Museum is a hands-on technology and science museum for people of all ages and backgrounds. The museum—located in the Capital of Silicon Valley —is a non-profit learning resource established to engage people in exploring and experiencing technologies affecting their lives. Through programs such as The Tech Challenge, our annual team design competition for youth, and internationally renowned programs such as The Tech Awards presented by Applied Materials, Inc., The Tech Museum celebrates the present and encourages the development of innovative ideas for a more promising future.