Friday, August 17, 2012

Intel program inspires engineering students to help community

Michelle Kantor presents Intel project
If you have kids, you know that childcare can be really expensive. In fact, it can range from $4,000 to $10,000 per year per child! That can be challenging for working families.

A group of engineering students recently thought of a great solution to this problem, thanks to an Intel Corporation program that United Way recently participated in.

Their idea is called Zip Care, and it’s a website that uses technology similar to a car-sharing business to help local Latino families set up babysitting co-ops and learn about child safety.

Zip Care was just one of the innovative projects students participating in the Intel Ultimate Engineering Experience here in Portland have come up with to use broadband technology to address challenges facing underserved people in our community.

Intel created the Ultimate Engineering Experience as part of their work with the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The program’s goal is to encourage freshman and sophomore engineering students to stick with their engineering program to completion. Currently the United States produces 130,000 engineering students per year. This compares to 1,000,000 per year in India and China.

One of the reasons this is happening is that more than half of all US engineering students drop out of their engineering program by the end of their second year.

Intel’s Ultimate Engineering Experience is a six-week summer program at six Intel sites in the U.S. that helps students learn how to be innovators and entrepreneurs, showing them what it’s really like to be an engineer, as opposed to just the theory they learn in engineering school.  The program is built around four projects that build in complexity during the session and expose participants to different fields in engineering and design methodologies.

Jack Baker presents Intel project
 Students also get a scholarship to support their continued pursuit of an engineering degree.
The first project centered on a concept called ideation. Ideation is a process where participants learn how to identify problems, to look at these problems as opportunities, and gain the confidence to become the innovators of tomorrow. This is where United Way was invited to help.

United Way staff members Roserria Roberts and Sarah Groshell presented information and data to the students about the challenges that many people face in our community every day.

Here are just a few of the issues brought to light by Sarah and Roserria:

·         Over half a million people live in poverty in the Portland metro area
·         Over 350,000 people have no health insurance
·         A third of ninth graders will not graduate from high school on time

“The students were very engaged and wanted to know more about the barriers in people’s lives,” said Roserria.

“Many of these students had no idea the dropout rate was so high,” said CJ Phillips, facilitator of the ideation training and a Physical Design Engineer with Intel.

Next, students worked in teams to come up with ideas they could use to help underserved communities using broadband technologies. Here the idea for ZipCare was born.

Spencer, a student who worked on the Zip Care project, said, “I was surprised because I was expecting robots and software and that kind of thing and then the first thing we’re talking about is United Way and social issues. A lot of people came in thinking about what they would get out of it, and then we were asked to think about helping others.”

At the end of the week, a panel of judges, including United Way team members Colin McCormack and Don Braden, reviewed all of the projects.

“Knowing that someone from United Way was going to be a judge made us feel like we could really make a difference in an engineering capacity,” said Michelle.

“I was impressed by many of the innovative ideas these students came up with,” said Don. “I really think learning this kind of approach would serve us all well.”

Intel Corporation is a longtime supporter of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. Last year alone Intel employees and retirees and the Intel foundation donated $7.2 million to our annual giving campaign.

United Way was thrilled to be able to step up and help Intel with the Ultimate Engineering Experience when they called.

 “I really want to thank United Way for helping us with this project on relatively short notice,” said Irwin Yablok, the Intel employee who along with Leigh Weisshaupt coordinated the entire Intel Ultimate Engineering program here in Oregon. “It’s a win-win!”

We could not agree more Irwin! Thank you Intel for all you do. You are an important asset for our region.


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