Booz Allen Women Share First-Hand Experiences with FIRST®

Apr 4, 2017 1:30 PM ET

Whether its improving heart health or the automation of cars, Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we exist in today’s connected world. In our technology-driven world, it’s never been more important to build the pipeline of talent in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and to encourage the next generation of innovators. Since 1989, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has been nurturing kids’ love of STEM, and inspiring them to take on engineering challenges.

Booz Allen Lead Associate Laura Hayman manages Booz Allen’s partnership with FIRST, and she helps employees passionate about helping kids and supporting STEM education get involved in FIRST as volunteers and in some cases, consultants. “I have the job I dreamed about when I was a teenager, working at the intersection of the corporate and social sectors. Every day, I help smart, interesting, and generous colleagues get involved in FIRST, so that FIRST and Booz Allen can together affect more kids and communities. I’m proof that you don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer now to be part of inspiring future ones.”

In honor of Women’s History Month in March, we talked with two more Booz Allen women involved in FIRST to find out what inspired them to get involved.

Lead Associate Amy Dalmas, an instructional designer at the firm, describes this as her “rookie year” as a FIRST mentor. It was Amy’s 8 year-old daughter Mia’s love of all things scientific that spurred Amy’s decision to become a FIRST LEGO® League Junior (FLL) mentor. Mia “can spend whole days building stuff” and she put her ingenuity to use this season with FLL Jr.’s “Creature Craze” challenge which resulted in a group of elementary school kids researching the horses of Assateague Island in MD and building a LEGO model of their habitat.

 “I spent three years of my undergraduate program taking engineering classes, eventually graduating with a degree in mathematics and computer science. I enjoyed teaching the kids some fundamentals of engineering so that they could build a motorized lighthouse for their model,” Amy said. “Back when I was a freshman at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, I was one of just three women in my Engineering 101 class. By the end of the semester I was the only woman left. Throughout my time as an undergraduate, I was often one of the few women in my engineering, computer science, and math classes. While I always found my professors to be very encouraging, the absence of other women could be a deterrent for others. I want my daughter to know that there are plenty of opportunities for her in the STEM fields—and her experience with FIRST certainly helped encourage her interest.”

Meanwhile Senior Associate Tina Mangles has been volunteering with FIRST for 9 years, beginning when her son was in first grade and continuing through high school. Tina still serves as a mentor for the TitanBots First Robotics team 2543 in Chula Vista, CA, even though her son is now studying civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. “Many FIRST mentors start as parents who volunteer on their kids’ teams, and then stick around after their kids graduate. That’s how rewarding working with these kids can be,” Tina said.

“I help the kids learn presentation skills, project management, conflict resolution, and how to get buy-in from teammates for their ideas,” said Mangles. “The team recently wrote a successful grant application that secured them $5,000 to purchase a trailer with which to transport their designs. “The kids are the owners of their own processes. They run it past the adult mentors, but they are in charge,” she said.

FIRST participants—the kids and the adults—discover their new interests and skills through FIRST challenges, and become more confident and capable leaders. With support from colleagues like Laura, Tina, and Amy, Booz Allen women are helping thousands of kids envision their very own dream jobs.  

When asked where she finds personal inspiration in FIRST, Laura refers to the sense of community. “FIRST offers all kids, and actually all adults, an opportunity to learn and contribute, to be valued for their strengths, and to be part of a team. I’m inspired by the kids who struggled socially or academically until they joined a FIRST team. I’m inspired by the community we have here at Booz Allen, where employees who do different types of work and live in different states, connect around FIRST and are part of something bigger.”

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