MSEN Students Exposed to Future STEM Careers During Lenovo Field Trip
Over the last three years, Lenovo has donated over $40,000 to the North Carolina Math/Science Education Network (MSEN) Pre-College Program at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation while cultivating a partnership that serves MSEN students by providing exposure to STEM careers and the tech industry.
On Sept. 22, Lenovo’s Black Leaders Achieving Success in Technology (BLAST) resource group hosted nearly 200 students from MSEN at Lenovo’s Morrisville, North Carolina, campus for a day of tours, career conversations and hands-on activities. Students were from middle and high schools in Edgecombe County, Durham County, Halifax County and Wake County Public Schools. This trip was part of Lenovo’s seventh Global Month of Service when Lenovo staff around the world are encouraged to give their time and talent back to their local communities.
“Exposing students to these types of events at Lenovo gives them a sneak peek into what it could be like for them to step into similar roles,” said Markesha Parker, senior engineer and ThinkAgile VX Worldwide technical leader at Lenovo. “Students were allowed to ask a panel of Lenovo employees any question that came to mind. These questions ranged from advice on how to handle college and major selection to work life balance to problem-solving difficult situations in the workplace. These tips and tricks will help guide the students as they are making similar decisions without the stigma of ‘what if I can’t?’ It also gives them a head start on thinking about innovation they can bring to the company, which is where Lenovo thrives!”
During the field trip, students toured the Executive Briefing Center; learned about design thinking, educational boards, and UX and accessibility; and participated in a STEAM rotation station. They also learned about microprocessors and how they worked, working in teams to connect Arduino Pis to LED lights and laptops.
“I really loved the Lenovo field trip because I learned things that I didn’t know before and the food was amazing,” said one student from Phillips Middle School.
Diversifying the STEM pipeline and exposing students to STEM careers is a huge part of the MSEN program. Having a diversity of backgrounds in STEM can be key to innovation and can help maintain a strong workforce. Students’ STEM exposure is critical to creating a diverse STEM workforce, yet there are many who don’t get the exposure they need.
“Most students have no idea of what it’s like to work for a major tech company or the corporate environment,” said Braska Williams, director of the NC MSEN program at NC State. “Given the fact that many of our non-Wake County students from Durham and Edgecombe counties are from low-income backgrounds, many of them would not understand the pathway to obtaining a job at a place such as Lenovo. For many of them, they have not seen people who look like them who work in these environments.”
Founded in 2014, BLAST is an employee resource group (ERG) at Lenovo, made up of more than 300 African American employees across North America who participate in workshop and mentoring activities as well as growing and promoting Lenovo’s supplier diversity program.
“My hope is for the students to be motivated and encouraged to seek a career in STEAM by exposing them to the lives and day-to-day activities of engineers and leaders from similar backgrounds excelling in these roles,” said Parker.
For the last two years, Lenovo and MSEN have partnered on various activities, from an app challenge to a tech career event at MSEN’s Saturday Academy where over 30 Lenovo employees volunteered to serve on a career panel and did hands-on activities with students.
“I value the ability to collaborate on events/activities that bring exposure to our students,” said Williams. “The partnership is not just something on paper; Lenovo has been very interested in how they may serve the needs of our program.”
After these experiences with Lenovo, Williams hopes that students will be motivated to continue their STEM education.
“I hope that students will say to themselves, ‘That could be me in five to 10 years.’ Also, they will understand how technology is such a vital part of the U.S. economy,” said Williams. “Hopefully, they’ll see that a career in technology is obtainable and has great rewards.”