SCE Engineers Inspire Students to Pursue STEM

For National Engineers Week, a diverse group of utility leaders show first graders the value of an engineering career path.
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Stories : People
Stories : People

SCE Engineers Inspire Students to Pursue STEM

For National Engineers Week, a diverse group of utility leaders show first graders the value of an engineering career path.

It’s superhero day at Cesar Chavez Academy in Corona. Boys with masked, hooded sweaters and girls wearing long, red capes shuffle into an auditorium only to be met with un-costumed, real-life engineers who help keep the lights on for 15 million people.

It was fate that superhero day coincided with a school visit from Southern California Edison engineers, who arrived to speak to first-grade students about the importance of not leaving their futures to chance. The SCE team led the young learners in a jelly bean and toothpick-building activity.

National Engineers Week is Feb. 19-25 this year, and to raise awareness of this career path, an outreach committee of SCE engineers spoke to young students in several communities throughout the utility’s service area.

Students fear letting go of their wobbling jelly bean tower as Antonino Cabagnot, SCE engineer, measures its height.
Students fear letting go of their wobbling jelly bean tower as Antonino Cabagnot, SCE engineer, measures its height.

“Speaking to students and giving a face to engineers can help inspire and create a sense of ‘if they can do it, I can do it too,’” said Adrian Luna, SCE senior engineer. “It’s crucial when it comes to mentoring and the future need of engineers to innovate new technologies to develop clean energy and slow the rate of climate change."

Black, Hispanic and women workers remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related occupations, and studies have shown that exposure at a young age can double a child’s interest in a STEM career. That’s why the SCE engineering outreach committee has been in place for over 10 years to help inspire engineers of tomorrow. This year, the team also visited Central Language Academy in Ontario, Lexington Junior High School in Cypress, Carpenter Elementary in Downey and Euclid Elementary in Ontario to speak to students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Jill Anderson, SCE executive vice president of Operations, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Boston University, also addressed the students and spoke about engineering projects she worked on during her studies.

“It’s important to expose young students, especially girls, to the many different types of engineering and plant the seed that they could build rewarding careers in this field too,” said Anderson, who has two young daughters, one in first grade and the other in fourth grade.

Jill Anderson, SCE executive vice president of Operations, guides a team of girls to design, draw and build a jelly bean tower using toothpicks.
Jill Anderson, SCE executive vice president of Operations, guides a team of girls to design, draw and build a jelly bean tower using toothpicks.

Students absorbed each speaker’s stories and asked how everyday items are built, from houses, cars and glass, to their favorite devices like computers, video games and smartphones.

“I never knew that there were computer engineers who can make robots on computers and software for us,” said Victoria, one of the first-grade students.

“I learned that engineers are really important. They can make phones so I can play games,” said another student, Clementine.

As young students created structures one jelly bean at a time, they simultaneously built a foundation in STEM through critical thinking and collaboration.

“At Cesar Chavez Academy, we are thankful for our partnership with Edison and their willingness to share their time and knowledge with our students. Students were very interested in the different engineering disciplines and asked great questions during the presentation,” said Norma Padilla, a first-grade teacher. “They were motivated by learning about engineering and how it impacts their everyday life.”

(L-r) Gianela Gozalo, SCE quality and compliance engineer, Adrian Luna, SCE senior engineer and Antonino Cabagnot, SCE engineer, share their engineering careers and experience with students at Cesar Chavez Academy.
(L-r) Gianela Gozalo, SCE quality and compliance engineer, Adrian Luna, SCE senior engineer and Antonino Cabagnot, SCE engineer, share their engineering career experiences with students at Cesar Chavez Academy.

Peruvian-born Gianela Gozalo, SCE quality and compliance engineer, credits her father, an electrical engineer, as the inspiration for her career path. She expressed the importance of sharing stories to help students relate to her journey.

“Not only are we promoting engineering, but we are also trying to raise awareness among Spanish-speaking students and women, so in the future, there is more diversity in engineering not only at SCE but other companies as well,” Gozalo said.

Engineers like Anderson, Gozalo and Luna not only keep the utility running smoothly, they also inspire and change lives with the power of their words and experiences.