I remember the day clearly that President Obama visited Intel. I was thrilled to sit in the auditorium alongside my Intel coworkers and watch the POTUS speak about the good things we did. Good for our community and also for our country. I felt my soul fill with pride as he spoke directly to us as Intel employees. The visit was about a lot of things but it centered around the Intel STEM program and our company's push to get more kids interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in schools. Immediately after the visit, our CEO gave the directive for all of us to give as we could to this program and he made available a lot of programs that we could join to teach in our local schools. Since that visit, I have taught science and engineering in several local middle and elementary schools, always finishing exhausted but enjoying my visits tremendously. My hope was always that my visits made a difference in, at least, some of their lives.

About 6 months ago, I received a message from another Intel employee about a local classroom who was looking for volunteers. It turned out this classroom was about to receive an assortment of Windows 8 tablets as part of a Pilot program and the teacher needed some help to understand the technology herself as well as to teach the kids. Since I work specifically in the Windows 8 tablet group, I thought it would be a fun team project for us to sign-up to do as part of our "team" community goodwill effort. I spoke to my boss and he agreed. The rest is history. Four of us were able to commit to coming into this one classroom 1x a month for the past 5 months. And so each month, we found a time-slot where we cleared our calendars, got into our cars and head to the school to spend time with the kids in this classroom.

I have to say that of all my volunteer STEM experiences at Intel, this one was my favorite. Unlike previous ones, where I taught and was left to wonder if my work impacted a life, in this one I saw measurable growth in the kids. We were there on the day they unwrapped their tablets (in teams of two) and we walked them through logging in and basic navigation. We were thrilled at the ease and speed at which the kids stepped into Windows 8 metro and the app store. About halfway into our commitment, I came up with the concept to teach these kids to program these tablets. While it was fun to see them use the devices as consumers, I was interested in empowering them to become inventors and creators of technology. So I re-visited the "scratch" website (MIT) and, along with a coworker, created a curriculum that we could teach in class.

And this is when the magic really began. We watched these children with amazement as they transformed from technology consumers into technology inventors. It wasn't a direct pull for each child but there is something about high tech creation for every person. I remember walking around the room helping the groups of kids as they got stuck on their programming when I landed in this group of 4 girls all sitting together. They were less engaged and less interested than others in this thing called programming. So I talked to them and I asked them what it is that they liked to do. Their eyes and souls lit up as they told me about the current books they were reading. And so I explained to them about how high tech needs all kinds of minds, not just the all geeky sort who do programming. We need people who are connected to the current market as well as designer people and people who can tell stories. All of these people need each other and all play an equal part in developing the products you use. And with that I opened up the Scratch programming Language on their Windows 8 tablet and taught them how to build animation that they could use to animate the stories they are reading. And the flame was fueled.

From that day on, every time we stepped into that classroom to teach, the energy was so high that the good feeling stayed with me for more than a day afterwards making my own work more productive. My coworkers shared the same experience. Those kids were absolutely on fire and they lit us (and everything around them) up. Intel gave them a gift of a Pilot by issuing them tablets. We gave them a gift of a lifetime, by empowering them to own their creations and inventions. The marriage was nothing short of magical.

Last week was the last time we saw these kids. This was a most special day because this time it was not us who traveled to the school for a visit, but rather we had the kids come to Intel for a visit to our museum and offices. My boss and several other people in our group all pitched in to make the day special for the kids. They were so excited to see all the cool stuff in the museum and to play with all the newest technology. But for us, the excitement was really about what they prepared for us for this trip. About 12 of these kids actually prepared either a Scratch program or a Powerpoint program that they presented to the room in much the same way that we have to present to our groups. The programs were nothing short of stunning and the stories that they told via PPT were touching (to say the least). I nearly teared up when I saw the animation presented by the girl in the book group. (all done in programming language btw) The energy in the room was so high that you could feel it the moment you stepped into the room and it was contagious. Our senior group manager walked into the room with the intent of just staying a little while and ended up cancelling his meetings to stay through all the presentations. Some of the kids found acceptance for the first time ever in this class. Others found a new way to look at technology and at the people who work in technology. All of them have fresh, new ideas and concepts that they shared with us because they felt that there were listened to. And we listened. One of them said that she learned through this class that she can do big things with little devices and I felt my soul fill with the same pride I felt on the day that Obama spoke directly to us.

I have been mentoring young people in one capacity or another for decades and while the work is sometimes exhausting, it always is worth it. There is no reward, no gift more valuable than to experience the synergy of your wisdom through their lenses. Being able to do this in the capacity of my day job was just icing on the cake.





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