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Future engineers from Girls Innovate! visit HP Labs


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist




Just before heading back to school from summer break, a group of high school girls passionate about math, science, and technology got to visit HP Labs in Palo Alto this week for a glimpse of how women engineers are making a difference in an industrial lab and beyond.


The teenagers were all members of Girls Innovate!, a Bay Area non-profit that works to educate, inspire, and mentor girls to positively impact the world through innovation. Their trip was organized by Puneet Sharma, a veteran cloud networking researcher in HP’s Networking and Mobility Lab. “For me, these girls are the future researchers of HP Labs. We need to engage with them early on and acquaint them with the nurturing environment that HP Labs provides for women technologists,” he suggested in introducing the group.



 Mithra Vankipuram speaking to the visiting students.


After receiving an overview of HP Labs and a tour of the HP IdeaLab, the girls got to hear from two successful women engineers.


Mithra Vankipuram is an expert in human-computer interaction and a research scientist in HP Labs. Vankipuram shared some of her research, including a demonstration of haptic feedback technology, and her own story of becoming an engineer. That involved a journey from Legos, to architecture, to computer science, to becoming interested in 3D simulation technologies, and then applying that interest to solving complex problems in healthcare through the use of virtual reality.


“As long as you like problem solving, you’re going to like engineering,” Vankipuram told the girls, a message echoed by fellow speaker, Claudia Galvan, a senior director at the Anita Borg Institute, the international organization dedicated to advancing women in technology that is supported by HP and headquartered in HP Labs’ Palo Alto building.


A former engineer with Microsoft, Adobe, and Oracle who specialized in making software work in different languages across the globe, Galvan offered an international perspective on how women are making a difference in technology. She then spoke about ABI.local, the initiative she now heads at the Anita Borg Institute that is building a network of self-organized groups around the world to grow and support current and aspiring women technologists.


Galvan also shared her own story of majoring in computer science in Mexico, even though she only decided to go into the field after she arrived at college, and asked the girls about their own passions and plans.


“If I’m an engineer, I think I can make more of an impact on the world,” suggested 12th grader Emma.


“I’m interested in science but also in technology,” added 10th grader Cathy. “I’d like to use both to make medicine more accessible and help cure diseases.”


Engineers work in a wide range of fields, Vankipuram noted before the girls headed off to end their visit with a demonstration of Sprout, HP’s new integrated desktop 3D scanning computer. “All kinds of people - artists, architects, and even fashion designers – are engineers, too,” she pointed out. “If you like making crafts, or working with friends to create something, or taking anything apart and getting it to work again, you’re already thinking about things in the way engineers do.”



 Claudia Galvan encourages the members of the Girls Innovate! group to pursue a career in science.



 Playing with the demo of haptic feedback technology.



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