More than 160 teen girls from local middle and high schools converged onto AT&T's San Ramon campus last month for a day focused on spurring interest among girls to pursue careers in science and technology fields.
The second annual Girls in Future Technologies (GIFT) Day, a collaboration between the Women of AT&T volunteer group and the Girl Scouts of Northern California, featured keynote presentations, rotating educational workshops and interactive lessons on Oct. 22.
"Like the concept of an all-girls school, we think it's really helpful to give girls an experience of technology, engineering and design in a girl-oriented environment where they can experiment and ask questions without ridicule or judgment and where they are inspired by women at various phases of their STEM careers," said Michelle Hemenway, president of the local Women of AT&T chapter.
The GIFT Day opened with a keynote address by Felicia Walker-Breland, former rocket scientist and current leader at Santa Clarita-based National Technical Systems, which provides testing, validation and verification services to support commercial, aerospace and military customers.
Walker-Breland talked about how she uses math and science every day to evaluate her clients' products (aka "break things") so improvements can be made to programs such as the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Mars Rover, according to AT&T officials. She also shared her life experiences, from scientist to motherhood.
Girls in attendance then participated in three of seven rotational workshops, with topics including:
* An explanatory tour of AT&T's Communications Test Laboratory.
* A lesson in person genetics taught by University of California at San Francisco's Jeanette McCarthy, Ph.D.
* Hands-on practice building a personal web page with Imelda Alejandrino, CEO of AP42 Marketing.
* An introduction to the "Internet of Things" using laptops to program Arduino controllers presented by Manoj Gupta of AT&T
* Exposure to Stanford's Human Centered Design Thinking in a collaborative exercise to build catapults led by Tarren Corbett-Drummond and Nina Joshi of the AT&T Foundry.
* A panel discussion offering insights into AT&T college recruiting with Bridget Meyer, Sara Farooq and Michelle Peterson of AT&T.
* A panel discussion among two high school juniors and one college senior who are already embarking on careers in technology while still in school.
Between sessions, participants tried out AT&T's "It Can Wait" simulator, which reinforces the company's "never drive distracted" message, and viewed the inner workings of a live "Cell On Light Truck" (COLT) used to provide wireless communications during an emergency or large event, AT&T officials said.
The event concluded with an afternoon keynote from Peter Andrada, IT manager and technology evangelist at FireEye Security, who shared key insights into cybersecurity, recent cyber-attacks and ways to maintain personal safety while having fun in the digital world, AT&T officials said.