On February 2, 2023, IGNITE Students from Risdon Middle School and McKnight Middle School in Renton School District visited T-Mobile’s Tech Experience Center in Bellevue, WA, for an IGNITE Field Trip. The students were greeted upon arrival by music, an enthusiastic group of T-Mobile volunteers, and a drone flying overhead!
Inside the Tech Experience Center, students were met by more volunteers and more exciting technology waiting to be explored! Before diving in, Candice Boyd and Elizabeth Zhang gave an introduction to the history of wireless, how it works, and some of the exciting applications of 5G technology. Next, Henry Li and Nguyen Duong provided a quick overview of the language of computers that ties everything together: Programming.
Students then got a chance to try “talking to computers” by coding robot cars linked to the 5G network with the guidance of T-Mobile mentors Henry Li, Nguyen Duong, Rowan Andruscavage, Elizabeth Zhang, and Woody Sellers. Some were hesitant at the beginning, but once they realized they had learned the basics, students had a blast and got creative with their programming, spinning their cars in circles and racing them across the room!
With their new knowledge of programming, students then moved on to explore some of the ways coding and 5G technology are being used to solve problems and help people all around the world. They visited four demo stations, including a robotic arm that can be used for things like surgical procedures, drones that can assist with search and rescue operations, augmented reality that can help troubleshoot and repair machinery, and hydroponics using the network to grow healthy crops. The crop du jour was lettuce, which a few students sampled!
After an eventful morning, everyone sat down for a pizza lunch and heard from three speakers who work in different departments at T-Mobile:
Erin Raney, Sr. Director of Network Technology Services and Innovation at T-Mobile, said she has her dream job—a job she didn’t know existed when she was younger! When she was in school, technology was pretty limited, and there were a lot of stereotypes, but her dad advised her to get a technical degree and then do anything she wanted. She ended up creating her job at T-Mobile, which included building the Tech Experience Center and two other facilities and getting to work with students!
Angel Corrales, Communications Manager at T-Mobile, speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French! His job is to make sure T-Mobile technology is being represented in the best way and that customers get the right information and support, particularly in a way that feels inclusive to them, including the large base of Hispanic customers. People rely on networks to communicate with family and friends, and Angel loves that he can use his skills to help people.
Arena Hernandez, Sr. Engineer Digital at T-Mobile, works on the software that takes calls from customers. Originally from Mexico, she crossed the border every day to attend college in Texas. She was very poor, but she had a dream to change her life by becoming a computer engineer. Arena loves that STEM allows you to express your creativity and put ideas into the world!
The students asked a lot of great questions, including:
- How did you decide that you wanted to pursue technology?
- What classes should I take to learn more about technology and engineering?
- What did you pursue before going into technology?
- How did you know that you chose the right job? Were you nervous?
- What was your favorite part of your career so far?
- What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered personally or professionally?
- Did you ever think you could get this far?
Some of the key takeaways from the speakers were:
- Fundamental skills in math in programming will help you no matter what. Public speaking is also very helpful in presenting your ideas and projects.
- It’s okay not to know what you want to do. You find your passion by trying different things, taking risks, being open-minded, and learning as much as you can. Also, ask a lot of questions, and surround yourself with people who support you.
- It’s important to know yourself and your body. At the end of the day, if you’re not happy, trust yourself that you need to change something.
- Almost every career you can imagine has a STEM component! Additionally, skills you learn in STEM like resourcefulness, analytical thinking, and problem-solving apply to everything.
After the discussion, the students enjoyed some free time to explore more throughout the space. The highlights were a virtual “strike-a-light” game, similar to “whack-a-mole,” and a photo filter station where students could see themselves as cartoon characters, dancing pickles, and more!
Every element of the day was a meaningful experience! Students with and without programming experience really enjoyed the robot coding activity, and the demo stations offered a glimpse of the many applications of programming and 5G beyond a mobile phone. They loved getting to ask questions about STEM careers, receiving advice for finding and beginning their own careers, and then having extra time to play games!
Thank you to the amazing T-Mobile volunteers for making this possible: Erin Raney, Candice Boyd, Beckie Stark, Henry Li, Nguyen Duong, Rowan Andruscavage, Michelle Balatico, Angel Corrales, Arena Hernandez, Elizabeth Zhang, Kyle Hokenson, and Woody Sellers.
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“Today’s event inspried me to be more confident in public speaking and in my career. The robots were super cool too!” – 8th grade
“This event made me think about my future more and made me feel better about my future. I liked the robots, playing the games, and listening to the informaiton.” – 8th grade
“Today taught that with the right support and integrity, you can pursue any career. It made me aware of a lot more careers. My favorite part was hydrophonics and the slicing activity.” – 8th grade
“Learning about the different experiences and choices the panelists made to be where they are now was very inspiring. The pizza, coding the robots, and playing with the gadgets during stations was very fun.” – 7th grade
“This event taught me about how fascinating tech is and inspired me to persue a career in STEM one day. I loved the robots and the very fun game that taught me a lot about perspective.” – 7th grade
“After listening to how the panelists found their passion for STEM, it made me feel like I should try new things. I can’t wait to find my passion. I really liked the game with the batteries and the drawing maching and the coding robots.” – 7th grade
“I learned how art and design fits in with technology and how to use code to do cool things. There are lots of different kinds of jobs you can have involving technology, and technology can help and make the world better.” – 7th grade
Being at T-Mobile Tech Experience inspired me to try new things and find more passions I love! It inspired me more to maybe think of doing something in STEM helping the environment! – 7th grade
“This showed me that lots of careers involve STEM, lots of the stereotypes around STEM are gone, and that I should follow my passions.” – 7th grade
“I feel compelled to explore the analytical side of career paths more freely. STEM is an excellent way to create and innovation never stops.” – 8th grade
“I’m now more interested in design and coding and making robots. I thought it was fun finding my errors and fixing them. I learned that there are many careers you can pursue in STEM, and these efforts can help people worldwide (like the drone that delivers medicine)!” – 7th grade
“This event inspired me to think that even if you come from a harsh background, you can still get a good education and have a good job. You always have to have hope for the future. I came in thinking, “STEM is fun, but I don’t think I would ever do it,” but now I’m actually thinking that STEM is something I could pursue.” – 7th grade
“Today taught me that there isn’t only one job or something to do, but many things. STEM is fun, and not just math and science.” – 7th grade
“It inspired me to be more confident about my career choices, to try a lot of things, and not to be scared to take risks.” – 8th grade
“I want to explore AR/VR. Tech skills are applicable in many settings. Thank you to the great and helpful volunteers!” – 8th grade
“I was inspired by the stories about how the volunteers got to where they are. I feel like if I work hard enough, I can find out what I want to do. I just need to keep trying new things and take risks.” – 8th grade
“This event inspired me to follow my passion and dreams. It taught me to not be afraid to take risks.” – 8th grade
“This experience was very fun and inspired me to think about how I can become a part of STEM. It showed me I should try a lot of things, listen to people’s inspiration, and be introduced to a lot of things.” – 8th grade
“This event really did change my perspective on what people do at T-Mobile. If you feel passionate about what you want your future to be, pursue it! Go with your gut.” – 8th grade
“This event showed me the possibilities that are out there surrounding STEM. It also shows the career choices that are interesting in the STEM/technology field – more interesting than I thought. The big takeaway was how 5G and technology can have unlimited possibilities if you can do it.” – 7th grade
“Being able to see all the cool things that you can make or do from pursuing STEM definitely made me more interested. The possiblities in STEM were more than I expected. My biggest takeaway is that STEM is used in basically everything and it’s important to explore your options.” – 7th grade
“This event helped me learn that there are more jobs than just scientists in STEM and they are all useful. I learned how technology has developed and can be useful as it evolves to monitor plants, create rescuing drones, and move useful technology that I never knew existed. It gave me a hopeful view on upcoming technology.” – 7th grade
“The technology was really interesting.” – 7th grade
“Today was really fun. I am looking forward to doing STEM now that I heard from professionals. Something that was important to me from today was that you should follow your gut because if you have a feeling that you dislike something, don’t do it.” – 7th grade
“This event showed me that programming isn’t easy, but it also isn’t challenging. I also think that STEM seems very fun and it was also more interesting than I had expected. I learned that drones can be used to help deliver things to hospitals faster than anything. Overall everything was new and great to learn!” – 7th grade
“Today has inspired me to continue my coding path. I used to really hate coding, but that changed after the robot activity today. I really liked the virtual button presser activity as well. I learned that we should try new things and not give up on our goals. Thank you for explaining drones!” – 8th grade