Partnering for STEM Career Success - NAF and Juniper
Aug 1, 2016
A well-designed partnership between two business entities reaps financial benefits to both parties, but a partnership between a business entity and a group of energetic, eager-to-learn and appreciative high school students pays dividends that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
Juniper Networks is very fortunate to have such a partnership with NAF (formerly known as the National Academy Foundation) and the faculty and students at Manhattan Bridges High School in NYC. Since the Fall of 2013, over 45 Juniper employees have had the opportunity to engage with MBHS juniors and seniors enrolled in NAF’s IT Academy on 15 unique work-based learning programs or mentoring activities. These programs were designed to address NAF’s overall mission to prepare the students for college and career success and ranged from hands-on engineering projects, college preparatory workshops, one-on-one resume reviews, mock interviews via face-to-face and video technology, networking tutorials and lab tours, and a “Capstone Project” which was recently introduced in 2016. As for NAF’s overall success, its track record speaks for itself. NAF academies had a 100% graduation rate as compared to a 94% graduation rate for public high schools nationwide in 2015.
The Capstone Project was designed with the traditional university semester-long project in mind and offered to generate more than a one-time, self-contained mentoring event like the aforementioned activities. Introduced during a mentoring program in February, the students were challenged as 3-student teams to propose a technology, introduced within the last 5 years, that represented the most influential or impactful technology to society. While the subject matter was aimed at technology, the student task-at-hand over 3 months was to conduct research and assemble the business case to support their claim. Only basic parameters were defined such as the length of the final presentation and the judging criteria – balanced team contributions, knowledge of the technology and target market, completeness and credibility of the student arguments. Students were then left to flex their creativity in what to pursue and how. It is always a dilemma with such competitive exercises to provide enough guidance such that the students have some structure and produce a defined set of comparable deliverables, yet there needs to be enough opportunity for creativity and differentiation.
What the students produced and how they presented their pitches was truly amazing. With the technology elements encompassing 3D printing, ocean clean-up, fractal antennas, haptic belts, fingerprinting technology, and drones, I felt like I was listening to an infomercial at times. “Sign me up, I’ll take one of each.” All students kept to the allotted time, shared in the delivery of the presentations, integrated in statistics and videos, and effectively made their case; not just for the technology proposed, but for how unique they are as students and as young adults aiming to stake their claim on a successful career ahead.
For those engaged in STEM-related careers, you have a special opportunity before you to make an impact in the lives of bright, motivated students – whether at the high school or college level. The investment is minimal in terms of your time, but the rewards are quite substantial. Go for it!