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After experiencing my first earthquake on the west coast many years ago, there was nothing anyone could do to convince me that an earthquake could be a good thing.  However, there is one group that is doing just that. The Tech Museum in San Jose has introduced a simulated quake that is a life-changing platform for children to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Since January, The Tech Challenge has provided 1,400 students with ongoing STEM learning, culminating on Saturday, April 21. The annual team competition introduces the engineering design process to fifth through twelfth graders by solving a real-world problem through hands-on learning. The assignment for this 25th anniversary year – “Shake, Rattle, and Rescue” – asks students to create a solution to help earthquake survivors cross a damaged bridge.

I’m particularly proud that Cisco is the presenting sponsor for The Tech Challenge as 37 percent of its participants are low-income students, compared to less than 20 percent for similar competitions. Many of these children didn’t personally know an engineer or had not been exposed to technical fields prior to their involvement. But through The Challenge, the students become excited about technology and learn about the vast array of future possibilities – for themselves and the world. The result: They can change their lives in seismic ways.

Supporting The Tech Challenge is one of Cisco’s many community initiatives aimed at transforming education, to positively impact society and ensure a strong future workforce. And because community engagement is vital to everyone’s success at Cisco, I will join 150 of our employees to volunteer at the event on Saturday. On-hand will be our Tactical Operations Support Center, a team that provides emergency communications during crises to showcase how the network can play a critical role in facilitating communications during the most urgent situations. In addition, Cisco has donated technologies to the museum for use at this event and beyond. Why? Through the power of the network, community organizations multiply their impact, improving lives and building stronger communities.

I love seeing the wonder on a student’s face as they explore their future at The Tech Challenge. Why not join in the fun as a spectator at this free event? You might become inspired to get involved next year, perhaps even mentoring a team. We hope that community organizations in other locations can look to The Tech Challenge as a model for introducing STEM education to the young people who need it most. Meanwhile, companies like Cisco, and all of the corporate sponsors of this event, eagerly await the opportunity to one day harness the talent of these students to drive the next generation of business innovation.

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