On November 16, 2021, T-Mobile hosted a Virtual Field Trip of the Tech Experience Center with IGNITE Worldwide, including a panel and collaborative activity. The girls and nonbinary students present learned all about the importance of STEM careers, while also discovering that these careers are accessible to anyone with the right mindset.
The students learned about the critical underrepresentation of female voices in technical careers, as well as the numerous ways STEM skills can be applied to any career. They additionally were informed of STEM’s many benefits, such as high pay, likely career satisfaction, and rapid growth of the industry. Following this introduction, the panelists and tech experts from T-Mobile introduced themselves.
Priya Narayan, Principal Architect, a proud George Mason alum and cell phone engineer, describes her experience designing solutions within system architecture. Initially, she was mainly exposed to civil engineering and medicine as STEM opportunities, but over time came to understand other paths. She really enjoys helping people and making connections with other people. At T-Mobile, she assists people in upgrading phone service to adapt to changing times.
Catherine Ellis, Software Engineer, helps T-Mobile design secure systems for cell phones. She was exceptionally talented in STEM, while also participating in numerous extracurricular activities such as dance and cheerleading. Although she was somewhat hampered by limited course options in high school, she eagerly attended programming courses in college. Despite her incredible intellect, she was intimidated by a lack of previous experience as well as being a minority in all her courses. She emphasizes that a willingness to seize opportunities and confidence in one’s personal capabilities are crucial to success.
After these introductions, the students got a chance to solve problems in small groups, testing their STEM knowledge and winning mystery prizes. Then, they observed a robot utilizing 5G connectivity to sort colored cubes, as well as a hydroponic lab uploading water data to help manage the plants. There was even a demonstration of how 5G could be used to improve the reliability of drone communication.
During the course of the visit, the students asked questions about the novel technology demonstrated, including the following exchanges:
- How large of a drone can one build? The FAA requires that all drones weigh under 55 pounds to fly in US airspace.
- Can a drone do a flip? If so, demonstrate! The safety systems would override any such action but it theoretically could.
- Is 5G good for agricultural applications? A thermal imaging camera mounted on a drone could uncover areas which need to be watered more or have higher fire risk.
Then, the students moved into small groups to discuss the applications of 5G.
During the breakout session, the students talked about how 5G systems might be leveraged to fix a broken tractor—calling a drone for help and using augmented reality to fix it were top suggestions. Then, they decided that a controlled water system would improve the health of their plants and suggested drone cameras to track escaped cows. Finally, the questions wrapped up with a quandary regarding sick chickens and solutions to a farm labor shortage. Overall, all of these scenarios demonstrate the practical utility of 5G technology to farmers.
Following this activity, there was a Q/A session where the students got a chance to know STEM professionals better.
- What is an accomplishment you’re proud of while working for T-Mobile? T-Mobile mentors high school students in Washington, including one project last year where a team designed a search and rescue drone. Cat loves the amount of effort T-Mobile puts into outreach.
- What college did you go to? Priya got a Masters at George Mason following an undergraduate degree in India. She strongly encourages all of the students to engage with as many STEM fields as possible.
- How many people collaborate on a prototype? T-Mobile develops its demonstrations by reacting to community feedback and extensively predicting future trends.
- How did you know this was the job for you? Priya emphasized the importance of passion for the work, and understanding where you fit within each team.
- Was it hard to be where you are right now? They all agreed that getting to this point was difficult, both in the academic preparation and getting the job. However, they are united in stating it was fully worth it. Believe in yourself! Also, never be afraid to ask questions—even if you think it’s a “stupid” question, it probably isn’t.
Each volunteer offered a last word of advice: Catherine would tell her younger self to find a mentor to foster her talent and see her potential.
IGNITE Worldwide would like to sincerely thank Panelists Catherine Ellis and Priya Narayan, as well as Tech Experience Center Guides Henry Li and Candice Boyd. We greatly appreciate the behind-the-scenes team of Tech Host Ed Keeley, Facilitator Michelle Balatico, Jeremy Davidson on AV, David DeOtte and Felix Aguilar on cameras, Technical Lead Rowin Andruscavage, and Blogger Sebastian Rodionov for contributing to this event’s success and inspiring girls to pursue STEM.
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“Today’s event inspired me because women from all over the world that come from different backgrounds are still chasing their dreams. According to google Women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields.” – 7th grade
“It inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things, because you never know what you’ll like. Thank you for giving me the best experience of my life. I will never forget that it was truly one of the best moments ever.” -7th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to keep learning more in STEM.” – 7th grade
“This event opened our eyes and made us realize that we can pursue a career in STEM. It was an amazing opportunity to be here and listen to what other people had to say.” – High school
“I learned that you can’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try out new things—you never know if you could like them. Thank you for this wonderful experience that I will truly not forget and it did give me an interest in the STEM Field.” – 7th grade
“This inspired me to try new things so I can find what I’m passionate about.” – 9th grade
“It inspired me to think about joining STEM clubs at my school.” – 8th grade
“It inspired me because failing shouldn’t be something to be afraid of. Failing is a part of succeeding.” – 8th grade
“I feel like I know a lot more about this stuff. And I think I should work harder to maybe try to be like that.” – 8th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to pursue becoming a tech engineer. It also inspired me to study more about 5G. Thanks for introducing me to other possibilities in engineering.” – 11th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to do what I love. It also got me interested in tech more.” – 7th grade
“It inspired me because it was really cool all the things you can do with STEM. It can be used for so many things and can be used to help people.” – 7th grade
“It was good to see more women involved in a male-dominated field.” – 8th grade
“I am inspired by meeting women involved in the STEM field who felt confident about their work, even though the path to get there may have been harsh.” – 7th grade
“It inspired me to hear about and see some of the things technology has come to, as well as meeting some of the women in STEM and hearing a little about how they got here and about them.” – 7th grade
“You guys are very inspiring and I hope I can achieve a great job in STEM too!” – 8th grade
“I really liked watching them perform their inventions. I want to build drones or robotics later and seeing how they can fly their drone and be able to zoom in and out with the camera, possible ways of inventing things to improve and solve world problems like the cow situation makes me excited to make them myself!” – 8th grade
“It inspired me how advanced today’s tech is. I learned more about drones and other tech.” – 8th grade
“This Zoom Meeting was inspiring, as I met women who were part of a STEM role. They seemed so confident about their job.” – 7th grade
“I loved how we each collaborated on the questions and gave our answers. The drone and robotic arm were really cool.” – 7th grade