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When Teaching Means Learning & Giving Becomes Receiving

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Leslie.jpgThis blog was guest written by Leslye Paniagua, Senior Thermal Engineer at Intel Corporation. Prior to Intel, she was a Lead Performance Engineer at GE Aviation where she developed data analysis tools to provide real time diagnosis of turbine engine health, reducing engineers touch time and cost up to 50%. She has been associate professor at different universities worldwide where she helped students develop sustainable energy projects (solar stoves and refrigerators) that were donated to communities in need. 

When asked, I like to say that I am an energy management scientist. I hold a PhD in Thermal Energy Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. Previously, I worked in the aviation industry before joining Intel six months ago as a thermal engineer in the Data Center Group. I have also taught at different universities and really enjoy sharing my passion for science with students and helping them understand the universe. Therefore, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to volunteer to teach Intel® Future Skills curriculum to a group of young people in Guadalajara, Mexico. This opportunity provided nearly 100 underserved youth in Guadalajara with IT support and web development skills, such as creating a backend program using Java.

What caught my attention was the opportunity to help young people—possibly even the next generation of Intel engineers—build new skills. This opportunity ended up being quite a challenge due to the different backgrounds and expectations of the students. It was my responsibility to make each student feel included despite their previous knowledge or skill set, which made each session even more fun and rewarding. This experience made me feel lucky to work for an inclusive company that supports diversity because I truly believe that diversity leads to more creative and successful solutions. The working groups included graduate engineers, student engineers, as well as lawyers and even chefs! So, one could only imagine the ideas that were developed for our recycling project—they were amazing. One of the youth participants also noticed the groups’ diversity and shared that “there are a lot of the advantages of working in a team with so many different backgrounds.”

As an instructor, I was responsible for teaching knowledge and skills, but I also learned new things as well. For instance, my background is in thermal mechanics, but I was asked to teach electronics. This teaching opportunity allowed me to learn alongside the students. I was proud to challenge the students to think out of the box, find innovative alternatives to simple problems, and to adapt to change and overcome frustration. As we worked together, we generated great ideas that seemed to work perfectly for a specific purpose; however, we would always push the limits to make those solutions better, faster, leaner, or simpler. By the conclusion of the program, the students really understood how these actions ultimately produce in excellence.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of this rewarding experience—to have watched these students’ grow, gain inspiration, and dream bigger as they achieved their goals by using Intel Future Skills curriculum to obtain new skills. I gained a renewed energy by volunteering with this program and will remember this experience always, especially in future interactions with youth.
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