When Anna Prakash became a mother, she knew she wanted to raise her daughter, Elaina, with an emphasis on community involvement. As Elaina grew, Anna brought her to various local homeless shelters and food banks to volunteer. Being an engineer at Intel, Anna also brought her to many Intel-led STEM events.
Over time, Anna began to see her daughter’s growing fascination for STEM, and she wondered what would happen if kids across Arizona had the same level of exposure to STEM programming as Elaina did. Would they find a passion—and possibly a career—in STEM?
This curiosity inspired Anna in 2016 to co-found Education Empowers, a local non-profit that promotes STEM, robotics, and sustainability education by offering year-round, hands-on, educational programs to keep students engaged and excited.
Through Education Empowers Inc., Anna partners with local industries, non-profits, Boys & Girls clubs, schools, and Girl Scout troops to hold free after-school STEM programs—programs like robotics, virtual coding, drone programming, First Lego League, and Make-a-thons. During these after-school events, students are introduced to educational activities that reinforce the pursuit of higher education—and maybe even careers—in fields they may never have considered before.
“It’s very rewarding to see the smiles on students’ faces when they learn to code a robot or create a LEGO-based self-driving car,” says Anna. “It’s truly empowering that technology is helping to create a big impact for children as young as seven years old.”
By fostering skills like problem-solving, determination, and teamwork, Anna is helping students develop characteristics that will benefit them in their future academic and professional endeavors.
Additionally, through her non-profit, Anna created a free program called STEM Ambassadors, geared toward middle and high school students. This program provides leadership opportunities for students and connects them with industry mentors. Students who join the program learn about robotics and coding, and also have the opportunity to mentor new students who join the program.
And just as she inspired her daughter Elaina to a life of volunteering, Anna has inspired hundreds of her Intel coworkers to do the same. They’ve played a critical role in the success of her many programs, which served 2,200 total students in 2019. Of whom, more than 50% were girls, 30% were African American, and another 30% were Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish, giving hope to a more inclusive and diverse future for STEM.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Anna refused to let Arizona students go unsupported, so the program went virtual with the help of the Education Empowers STEM Ambassadors, and over 50 Intel volunteers from Arizona, California and Oregon their programs went 100% virtual. In 2020, they managed to deliver more than 100 virtual coding sessions despite the pandemic, reaching students across Arizona, and the U.S. despite the pandemic. No matter how she reaches students, Anna is always enthused to see “the pipeline of next-generation STEM innovators!”
That pipeline is only going to grow. The Intel Foundation recently selected Education Empowers Inc. to receive funding that will help the organization reach even more students across the U.S.
While most of them aren’t quite of the career decision-making age yet, her daughter Elaina now is—and she’s pursuing a career in STEM, majoring in engineering.
“My daughter went from, ‘I want to be a fashion designer or a dancer’,” says Anna, “to falling in love with robotics and engineering. It all came from an increased exposure to STEM and the mentoring form Intel volunteers. It’s that same transformation I saw in her I hope to foster in others.”
Of course, she’s already doing so. And she was recognized in 2019 with the Intel Global Hero Award for the great work she’s done for so many students. Something tells us, her work is only beginning.
As Anna—and all our Intel volunteers—continue to Do Wonderful, let’s work together to provide more opportunities for children to immerse themselves.
The 2020 Education Empowers Inc. virtual Intel volunteer team.