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CORP engineers encourage STEM learning with Taylor ISD students

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On a hot summer day in June, dozens of Taylor Independent School District students along with dozens of newly-minted Samsung Austin Semiconductor employees are learning from each other as part of a mentorship event. The children, grades PreK through 8th, are attending the district's summer camp focused on math and reading. On this particular day, Samsung Austin Semiconductor's College Orientation Recruitment Program (CORP) engineers are spending their day helping the students with various crafts and activities, such as making paper airplanes and constructing structures with nothing but pasta and marshmallows. "They're helping these kids use their imaginations," Taylor ISD's Coordinator for Family Support John Matthews said. "They've built rockets, a cat, a shoe, it's just amazing what they can do." CORP engineer Jonathan Rupert was able to put his physics degree to work by helping the student who built the rocket. "Watching them build these structures, I learned a lot about ways to approach building things," Rupert said. "It's nice to see any interest in any kind of STEM and it's cool to talk with the kids about science and engineering."
Ava Jalvan working on her structure. Meanwhile, 9-year-old Ava Jalvan started constructing a small city with the dried spaghetti and marshmallows. Jalvan says this is her favorite activity thus far. "I like math—multiplication and long division—and in science, I like anything," said Jalvan, spoken like a budding engineer. At the other end of the table, Spanish can be heard between CORP engineer Sadot Martinez Garcia and Mariela, the student he's working with to construct a 3D corazon (heart) she drew. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) student himself, Garcia understands the unique scenario some of the Spanish-speaking students are in.
Sadot Martinez Garcia, left, helping Mariela, center, with her project. "I think it helps me connect with the students better because from all the three groups I've had to talk to them in Spanish and give them instructions in Spanish," explained Garcia. Garcia is hoping these fun events and activities encourages more students of color to consider a career in STEM. "When I was growing up, I didn't get that experience at all. No experience with STEM or exposure to it. So for me, it was a very tough time during college trying to play catch up and I'm glad these programs are being incorporated so that they learn at an early stage," Garcia added. "I spoke to two students, one wanted to be a doctor and one wanted to be an astronaut. I think activities like these pushes kids' dreams to keep going." Matthews echoes the positive reinforcement these events have on the students. "It's another opportunity for them to meet and make a positive connection with an adult. And we know the more healthy inter-generational relationships you have, the more likely you are to go to a post-secondary education," Matthews said. While some students were constructing rockets and hearts, others were busy constructing instruments out of paper plates and corn kernels. Tiffany Zhang, a chemical engineer, helped the students make maracas and tambourines while troubleshooting any problems with an engineering lens. "Seeing their creativity and helping them figure out different ways to solve problems that we ran into. If there's a little issue, you don't have to stop, there's a way to figure it out and show them different methods to think about things," Zhang said.
Tiffany Zhang, working with students to make maracas and tambourines. Zhang said she joined Samsung Austin Semiconductor's CORP program because she really wanted to get into the semiconductor industry. "I think with technology growing so much, it's clearly vital to that," Zhang said. "With chemical engineering, I kind of eliminated all the other industries I wasn't so keen on going into and I just feel like the semiconductor industry is really promising and very interesting to me." As more Samsung employees start trickling into Taylor, Matthews hopes the partnership that is being forged will continue to grow with more mentorship opportunities. If you're interested in joining CORP, click here to apply.