Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow: The STEM Journey

June 26, 2024

Hey, we’re Joel and Andrea, the ‘23-‘24 Inclusive Research & Development Interns at The Tech. We’ve been invited to share our own STEM journeys while also giving you an insider’s look at The Tech’s current initiative to make STEM and STEM careers accessible to everyone.

First, a little more about us.

Joel Soriano Barragan

Hometown: San Jose, CA
Major: Business Analytics
Year: Rising senior at San Jose State University
Career goals: I would like to use data to help make a positive impact on the world
Hobbies: Exploring nature, doing puzzles, and playing sports
Fun Fact: I used to be able to solve a Rubik's cube in under a minute

I was drawn to this internship due to my passion for local education. Growing up in East Side San Jose, I have witnessed firsthand how a lack of resources can impact students' educational journeys. This issue has always deeply bothered me, motivating me to do something about it. I’ve taken initiative by volunteering my time at local schools, and joining a program where I get to mentor local students. I saw this internship as an opportunity to continue my efforts while gaining valuable hands-on experience in a professional environment.

Andrea Manjarrez

Hometown: Hayward, CA
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Year: Senior at San Jose State University
Career goals: I want to work with prosthetics in order to change people's lives
Hobbies: Baking, embroidery, and hiking
Fun Fact: I collect rubber ducks

The reason this internship sparked my interest was because I know how difficult it was for me growing up without the proper resources to guide me through my education. Seeing how many in my community have struggled with guiding their education made me want to help make a change. I saw this internship as a way to help students and be a part in creating something that will hopefully have a positive impact.


Every journey starts somewhere. Our STEM journeys began when we were young.

"The Tech truly built my interest in STEM."

Joel: “My earliest memory of hands-on STEM was coming to The Tech Interactive with my dad every weekend when I was 10 years old for a program they hosted. As a kid, I was never a fan of subjects like writing and English but I loved math and science. The Tech truly built my interest in STEM. During my senior year, I decided to study Business Analytics because it combined my love for numbers and my interest in business.”

Andrea: “Being from the Bay, I grew up visiting The Tech Interactive on school field trips, and I even participated in The Tech Challenge during middle school. These were my first introductions to STEM and are part of the reason I wanted to pursue a career in science and technology, but engineering was the one thing I wanted to avoid. That was until my 8th grade math teacher introduced me to biomedical engineering.”

Now we are not only helping the next generation start their STEM journeys, but we are also ensuring they have the necessary resources to guide them along the way.


Last year The Tech embarked on an ambitious 5-year plan to expand its educational offerings with a goal of creating a physical and online hub that would help young people, particularly those with less opportunity, build awareness of STEM career pathways. A key component of this plan was to involve the youth in the process. One way they wanted to do this was through an internship program. They posted the internship openings and they found us!

Since then we have:

  1. Researched current career exploration resources to see what resources are already available and discover gaps that The Tech could fill.
  2. Evaluated career exploration resources based on students' identified needs.
  3. Created career pathways specifically tailored for youth based on key findings.
  4. Wrote reports giving recommendations on how to best engage with our generation. 
  5. Conducted data analysis to gain insight into students' knowledge of STEM and their interests to create better resources for them.
  6. Facilitated activities at events such as Teen Week & sciencepalooza!
  7. Helped develop and prototype a possible new exhibit.
  8. Observed and provided feedback on students' labs.
  9. And so much more!

Our Impact

Our impact went beyond simply making resources and recommendations based on research. We used our past experiences to give The Tech first-hand insights into what students like us need.

"I was worried about not being able to find a community to support me and feeling alone in my struggles."

Joel: “As a first-generation student and someone who didn’t have a STEM role model, I can relate to feeling like you have to figure everything out by yourself. I know how hard it is to find the right resources and to navigate through university.

So as I was creating resources I constantly asked myself ‘What did I wish I had in high school?’ and ‘What are common questions I and others around me had about our future?’ This allowed me to create resources that I knew would be beneficial for students.”

Andrea: “As a Latina woman trying to pursue STEM, it can be difficult to not be doubtful of your capabilities, and to feel out of place in a male dominated field. This was one of my biggest concerns going into engineering. I was worried about not being able to find a community to support me and feeling alone in my struggles.

This is a concern many students may have, so it was important to me to include the diverse communities and clubs that exist within universities in our resources to make going into college a little easier for students like me. We wanted to make sure the next generation would have less of a barrier than us."


As our time comes to an end, we are saddened to say goodbye but rejoice in knowing The Tech will continue working to ensure STEM equity. During our time here we have given countless recommendations, but we would like to give two last recommendations.

  1. To youth: Take the initiative, apply to that internship, attend that webinar, go to that event, and get involved in your community. You never know what will come of it. Your ideas are valuable, so don’t be afraid to share them.
  2. To organizations: Involve youth. We hope we have shown you a glimpse of what is possible when we work together. Youth have new ideas, unique perspectives and most importantly are the ones best equipped to make content and resources for youth.

Check out some of Joel and Andrea’s work around STEM career resources and pathways (Resource Landscape & Career Pathways).