IMS and STEM: Building a Stronger Future


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Every year, the International Microwave Symposium (IMS) show hosts a STEM program and invites young students to take in the sights and sounds of the microwave symposium. At this year’s show, I met with IEEE MTT Education Committee STEM Lead Steven Lardizabal to learn more about the show’s STEM outreach.

Barry Matties: Steven, you're a part of the educational program, and today the kids are here attending the STEM program. Tell me a little bit about the educational program and what that means.

Steven Lardizabal: The student education program for IMS is actually something that's envisioned by the MTT Education Committee. It's a way to not only get graduate students involved in actually being researchers and not just reviewing what's going on, but getting actively involved and talking to other researchers and getting that all the way down to the STEM area, which is down to middle schools and elementary schools.

Matties: A very critical part of our future, right?

Lardizabal: Yes. The national focus on STEM is really middle schools. In middle school, students start getting distracted. They get history class and civics, so they start learning about their world, and they start doing a lot of different things, like studying literature, and math is only one piece of that. Science actually doesn't come until high school, so if the students don't pick up those abstract concepts early, you lose them. It's really hard beyond eighth grade to get focused. It's not to say that they're not going to become great writers or even doctors, but they're probably not going to design integrated circuits. That's where we're really focused.

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Matties: How long have you been part of the educational program?

Lardizabal: I've been part of the educational program within my company for almost a decade, and with IMS and the IEEE for the last three years.

Matties: We have what looks like maybe 75–100 kids here today, right in that area. I'm curious. Out of the past kids who attended, how many have you followed that have gone on into the programs? Do you have any of that data?

Lardizabal: We have a lot of data on the graduate students and how they follow through. Last year, we had over 150 middle school and high school students, because there’s a very active IEEE-supported STEM education group there in the Phoenix area.

Matties: Yeah, I was quite impressed with that. It was a large group. Of the graduates, what sort of people come out? Of the 75–100, would you expect five to ten percent to go on into the technology field from this?

Lardizabal: I would like to get one. It's becoming rich by making a penny. We know we'll touch more, but if I can get one of these kids really inspired to say, "You know what? I want to invent the next iPhone. I want to save the environment, and technology is the way I'm going to do it." It's that gem of knowledge that gets them going. In truth, that one is every one of them is how I like to say it. One at a time, but all of them.

Matties: One can be a lofty goal.

Lardizabal: Exactly.

Matties: It sounds counterintuitive with 100 kids here, but you keyed in on it earlier. There's a lot of distractions in a child's life.

Lardizabal: Yes. There are a lot of other things to do.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the August 2016 issue of SMT Magazine, click here.

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