Young Latinos Take a Look at High Tech Futures in STEM With AT&T's HACEMOS and National High Technology Day
AT&T's HACEMOS, a Hispanic/Latino Association, hosted its annual National High Technology Day across the U.S. on Thursday to help get Latino and other minority high school students excited about careers in high-tech fields.
Despite being noticed as being "ahead of the digital curve" (as Nielsen research recently put it), Latinos in the U.S. are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.
With internet, science, and technology-based business booming in the U.S., careers in STEM fields are widely considered some of the most future-forward that youth can strive for. U.S. government statistics project that demand for STEM professionals will increase anywhere between eight percent and 48 percent faster than all occupations over the next few years. But while progress has been made, Hispanics only made up about 7 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the 2011 U.S. Census.
While opening opportunities is a big part of the solution, raising awareness about the prospects in those fields is important, too. That's the goal of HACEMOS's National High Technology Day.
More than 1,900 high school juniors and seniors in more than 30 cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico got involved to learn about education and careers in science and technology on Thursday, being exposed to positive role models, motivational speakers, interactive activities over live webcasts, and -- for some -- touring AT&T's high tech development labs.
"Many Latino students lack awareness about science and technology careers, so they miss out on opportunities," said Delia Hernandez, national president of HACEMOS. "We're trying to change this through education."
In a release, Hernandez said that today's CEOs and business leaders will be passing the torch soon to the nation's young men and women, many of whom are unsure about their futures. "Real-world experiences can be eye-opening for these young minds," she said. "Exposing students to positive role models in science and technology is the first step."
Besides being exposed to mentors and role models in AT&T's high-tech and science domains, Latino and minority students at National High Technology Day were also introduced to a low-cost, open-source, do-it-yourself electronics platform called Arduino, which can teach students, through experimentation and an open-source Wiki, how to make hardware and software work together to perform tasks as simple as lighting an LED -- to as complicated as making a self-balancing Mini Segway.
New at this year's National High Technology Day was MIT's app inventor workshop, where students got a chance to learn how to design and program their own smartphone apps. Students also heard about the risks of texting and driving, as well as being counciled on the impact social media and their digital footprint can have on their careers.
While Latinos are statistically more likely to own smartphones, be engaged in social media, and use some of the most cutting edge digital media, events like National High Technology Day give young Hispanics a chance to be immersed in the behind-the-scenes technical details behind that technology -- and to broaden their horizons and maybe one day make a career of it.
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