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A Seismic STEM Challenge

Over 2000 innovators came together in San Jose recently to examine ways to ensure that buildings can survive powerful earthquakes.

This was no ordinary trade show. It wasn’t an industry conference filled with engineers and seismologists, policymakers and building managers. Instead, the more than 2000 participants were students, grades 4 through 12, from across Silicon Valley who came together for The Tech Challenge, a signature event of The Tech Museum of Innovation. Cisco has been the event’s presenting sponsor for five years.

The challenge was deceptively simple: design, engineer, and build a multi-story building able to withstand powerful seismic forces. Hundreds of teams spent the last 6 months researching seismic engineering, testing materials, and coming up with strong and flexible designs.

Then, these projects were put to the ultimate test: withstanding the earthquake simulator to see if the building survived intact.

The Tech Challenge is one of the most diverse science competitions in the United States

The Tech Challenge is one of the most diverse science competitions in the United States

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Mentoring At-Risk Students Good for Our Hearts and Minds

Last week, I was acknowledged by the Alum Rock Counseling Center for my personal commitment to mentoring at-risk students. As I prepared my thank you remarks, I was reminded how much I value youth mentoring nonprofits such as Alum Rock, Big Brother Big Sisters, and Child Advocates. Through mentor-mentee relationships, students are propelled to learn, to grow, and to discover their own genius.

It worked for me.

HCF #2

My parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s with little experience on living, working, or educating my sisters and me in this country. As a result, I leaned on mentors to guide me in areas my parents could not. Mentors who connected with my heart and with my mind made all the difference, because literacy and math achievement programs alone were not enough.

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Six-Year-Old Role Models at the White House Science Fair

I had the opportunity to attend the White House Science Fair last week, and I was blown away by the creativity and curiosity of the young men and women who presented their inventions.

The team that really stole the show was a group of 6-year-old Girl Scouts called the ‘“Super Girls” Junior FIRST Lego League Team,’ who showed off a battery-powered robot made of Legos that can turn pages for people who are disabled.

What a truly amazing group of girls!  They’re a real inspiration and role model to girls around the country and the world who want to grow up to be the next great entrepreneur or inventor.

Blair--White HouseScience Fair

 

But all too often, these girls are the exception, when they should be the rule.  Today, simply put, not enough girls and young women are choosing to go into the fields that make up STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of computer science degrees awarded to women peaked at 37 percent between 1984 and 1985. Compare this to only 18 percent of the degrees awarded to women in the period between 2008 and 2011, and it is easy to see the dilemma STEM employers are facing today.

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5 Steps to Make Mentoring your New Years Resolution

When people think of mentoring, the images of an apprentice learning from his master are often rendered. The senior blacksmith guiding his pupil through the craft he has spent his life perfecting. Over the years mentoring has changed, and today it is used throughout business to guide the greenhorns throughout their craft, or even life. But the idea that this advice must come from a wise old sage is a bit passé.In today’s world, the 1:1 ratio of mentor to apprentice isn’t common place. While you will still find these relationships around the world, the world has changed, and technology has helped us evolve. As a matter of fact, I believe the Cisco Champions program is fundamentally a group of mentors. We are all selected because we participate in social media, we blog, we have a sense of community. Because of all of these things, I believe many of us are already indirectly mentoring the community as a whole. But I wanted to mainly focus here on the local mentoring you do in your daily work life.

  1. Listen – In any relationship the power of listening is massive, just ask a therapist what their number one tool is. When you take the time to listen, you are showing support and encouragement. Once you have taken the time to listen and understand, the advice you provide will be much more valuable.
  2. Never stop learning – A career in IT means that you can never stop learning, lest your skills become antiquated. This just doesn’t mean you should keep up on the industry changes, or take a class on some new technology every year. I believe that it’s important for everyone to have their own mentor(s). It’s not always just about the technology, but sometimes the methodologies, and strategies that we can learn from our peers are much more important.
  3. Be committed – Being a mentor is a commitment, it certainly takes time and effort, but it is an investment! You spend your time and energy into your pupils, but you end up getting much more out of the experience. Be sincere, and interested in their development. Remember that your fledgling is easily demotivated by your indifference towards their development.
  4. Be open-minded – Some folks say that the best way to truly learn a subject is to teach it to others. Teaching is rewarding in that you get to not only review the subject matter for yourself, but you get to answer questions you may of never thought of. Also remember to listen, as some folks will never see your side of a discussion unless they’re convinced that you’ve understood theirs.
  5. Blog – And participate in social media, because sharing information is important. It is easier today than ever to share knowledge and incite discussion amongst the community of your peers. And because of that, it is easier than ever to reach out for help and guidance. So remember, when someone does, be a mentor. Listen, Understand, and most of all, try to help!

There are 5 ways you can become a (better) mentor. But I imagine many of you are asking why… Mentoring isn’t just about taking care of a junior staff member, it’s great for you in many different ways. First of all, helping others provides a wonderful feeling. Especially when you’re able to help make a difference in their lives! In addition, teaching is a wonderful tool that not only helps educate the student, but also forces you to continue your own learning to stay ahead with your advice.

I hope this has convinced some of you to step up your mentoring game in 2015. I certainly hope to spend more time at a white board this year myself.

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How I Helped Middle School Students Make a Difference in Their Community

stliemThis post was written by guest blogger Stephen Liem, IT Director, Global Quality and Support Services

There is no limit to what education can bring. It opens up many opportunities that otherwise may not be available.

In the past 10 weeks I‘ve had the privilege of teaching journalism to the middle school students in Joseph-George School in East Jan Jose, California. Cisco has been partnering with Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization, to deliver after school educational programs to low-income schools across the country.

Citizen Schools aims to prevent students from dropping out of high school through its Extended Learning Time (ELT) model, which provides after-school mentoring and support to low-performing middle schools. Volunteer professionals, or “Citizen Teachers,” teach 10-week after-school apprenticeships on topics they are passionate about, from blogging to filmmaking to robotics.

On average the schools Citizen Teachers visit do 300 hours less of after school programming compared to their counterparts. In East San Jose, where the graduation rate is at 79%, providing more meaningful educational programs has certainly helped not just the students themselves but also the community.

As a "Citizen Teacher" with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, Stephen Liem helped sixth graders create their own newspaper

As a “Citizen Teacher” with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, Stephen Liem helped sixth graders create their own newspaper

In my journalism class, students in the sixth grade learned how to interview and collect data, how to write an article well, and how to express and publish their opinions honestly and truthfully. Collectively they decided on the name of the newspaper – the East San Jose News — and the subject of their stories.

The results were both eye opening and touching at the same time.

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