As a child, Eshé Pickett had always gravitated toward math and science. She grew up on a ranch and found herself drawn to science projects that centered around animals and plants. Her parents recognized her curiosity and encouraged her to pursue her interests wherever they took her so she joined Mathematics Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) club at her school. MESA gave her the opportunity to take field trips and shadow multiple different professional engineers. In high school, during her sophomore year, she was encouraged to take a programming course, which she did. And that course changed the trajectory of her life. It led her to major in computer science in college, and pursue her master’s degree in the same. Shortly after graduate school, Eshé was recruited by Intel to join the team as a solutions engineer. That’s where she’s been for the past 15 years, working in the Internet of Things (IOT) Group and specializing in RBHE (retail, banking, hospitality, and education). She didn’t forget the opportunities she was given in grade school to cultivate her STEM interests. Eshé decided to voluntarily organize a trip to Intel for girls to foster their interests in STEM.
In September, Eshe celebrated the 13th annual Girls in STEM Day at Intel. It has grown into an annual field trip for underserved girls, grades eight-12. The program provides these girls with the opportunity to experience different STEM career paths, while teaching them about the ways technology is solving everyday problems in their own local communities.
The program is free, open to the public and operates on a first come/first served basis. These students visit Intel and engage in different hands-on engineering activities, while interacting with Intel volunteers
When Eshé first founded the program she didn’t have the connections to gain access to the lab facilities, volunteers, a budget, or even a team.
“I needed to do something for the bright young women I was meeting in classrooms,” she says. “I needed them to see what careers they could aspire to.”
Slowly the program gained momentum. And after five years of “scraping together funding,” Eshé’s Girls in STEM Day at Intel officially became a supported—and budgeted—initiative for community outreach with Intel. Today, the planning team works with more than 15 lab owners, boasts more than 80 volunteers, and partners with local universities and community organizations to identify pathways to a career in STEM.
“It’s humbling,” Eshé says, “to know many of these girls have never been in a professional setting or worked with anyone in this field, and they leave here feeling inspired. This experience allows these girls to gain professional experience, networking skills, technical skills, and the exposure of peeking behind the curtain in fields of work they may never have considered before.”
With COVID-19 pandemic, the team of volunteers quickly adapted to a virtual model. The program served a record number of 157 girls, including several from out of Arizona.
The adapted program took place over the course of two weeks, with girls going on “Zoom field trips” to learn about careers in engineering and STEM, including an Intel Technology demo and an undergraduate student STEM education panel. More than 50 Intel employees volunteered this year to help bring it to life, in addition to volunteers from The Society of Women Engineers and local institutions of higher education.
“Being able to see the joy that comes from these young women when they are working with the technology continuously amazes me,” Eshé says. “It lets me spread my passion for STEM.”
Do you have an interest in supporting girls on their STEM journey? Consider volunteering with the Million Girls Moonshot movement. Intel has a standing commitment to inspiring girls to pursue STEM. The Intel Foundation recently announced a partnership with STEM Next Opportunity Fund (the legacy organization of the Robert N. Noyce Foundation), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and many other technology and philanthropic leaders to launch a nationwide initiative designed to help close the gender, socioeconomic and racial diversity gaps in STEM fields. The Million Girls Moonshot is a transformative, nationwide movement that will re-imagine who can engineer, who can build and who can invent.
As Eshé and all Intel volunteers continue to Do Wonderful, let’s continue to encourage the next generation of women in STEM by finding ways to break down barriers in their way.