DesignCon 2013’s clues to encouraging STEM education

Anybody who doubts the importance of role models in encouraging kids to tackle the tough subjects of science, technology, engineering and math should consider what kids themselves say about how they got interested in the fields.

DesignCon 2013 invited a panel of high school and college students to share their thoughts at the annual chip designer confab in Silicon Valley and several of them mentioned teachers and parents as influences, according to the EE Times. (Who knew?)

Amanda Pratt, who’s working on a masters in engineering at UC-Berkeley, told EE Times that a female high school physics teacher set her on her path.

“It was my favorite class from the first day, thanks to encouragement from her and my father who is an engineer,” Pratt, whose next stop is Harvard Business School, said, according to the EE Times. “I decided I wanted to do something that mattered, and have a career with an impact.”

I admit to a special interest in the panel. Among the participants was Shachi Kakkar, a Cupertino High School student that I wrote about last year. Encouraged by his father, Kakkar started poking around in the world of chip-design verificiation. And to his surprise, he found it fascinating.

Fascinating enough to write a blog post about it, which the editors at EDN Network thought was fairly fascinating in itself. That first post led to a regular gig for Kakkar on EDN, a go-to site for electrical engineers.

By my thinking, if teachers and parents can have an impact on the career path a kid chooses, just think what peers could add to that equation.

“My dad is an engineer and he said I could do whatever I wanted as long as it was engineering,” Kakkar said at the conference, according to EE Times, “but up until last year I thought engineering was one of the most boring things you could do.”

Like I told Kakkar when I met him last year: If the electrical engineering/blogging thing doesn’t work out, he could always become a stand-up comedian.


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