Through Her Eyes: High-School Student Creates Podcast to Expose Minority Students to Semiconductor Engineering
I recently sat down with SEMI High Tech U (HTU) alumnus Oindree Chatterjee to find out why she recently created The STEM Corner podcast, available on Spotify, where she interviews professionals in the semiconductor industry.
Mahardja: Where did your fascination with the semiconductor industry and STEM begin?
Chatterjee: In 2019, when I was 14, I attended an eye-opening workshop called SEMI High Tech U at KLA, Micron, and San Jose State University. One activity shined brighter than the rest – the creation of a Sumo Bot. Assembling my own mini-robot out of cardboard, a circuit board, batteries, and two servos, and being able to control this bot through my smartphone filled me with excitement so much that I joined my high school’s robotics team!
Mahardja: How did you enjoy the robotics team experience?
Chatterjee: When I joined robotics, I was the only girl on the team. I had heard of the gender gap in STEM, but never believed that I would be the only girl on my robotics team, especially since my school is located near San Jose – the heart of Silicon Valley. If I experienced gender disparity in the Bay Area, a place known for its technology, I thought, what is it like being a girl in a similar situation in other parts of the United States or even the world? That was when I promised myself that I would do something to tackle the gender gap and I started with my own robotics team.
To diversify the robotics team, I made sure all the outreach events we organize target a diverse, equitable, and inclusive group. For example, when we present to Boy Scouts, we also include the Girl Scouts. I am also co-president of the Girls Who Code club. More than 60% of girls showed an interest in robotics they were introduced to my robotics team activities. I am also working on a community impact project to hold a monthly workshop in a local elementary and middle school whose only programming teacher left.
My favorite outreach event, however, is when I got to meet Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics, who shared her journey into engineering with my entire school – a few girls were inspired that day!
Mahardja: Why did you decide to create The STEM Corner Podcast?
Chatterjee: When the pandemic hit, I was frustrated that exposure events at schools were not going to be available and minority groups would be receiving even less exposure to STEM careers. I reached out to the SEMI Foundation to see if there was something I could do as a volunteer. We brainstormed and the idea of a podcast came to me early one morning. I loved the idea that would be able to share my voice, my experiences in robotics, and how SEMI HTU changed my life with others around the world via the podcast format.
Within three months I launched Episode 0. Since then, I have interviewed employees from top technology companies to leaders in the engineering industry like CEO Melonee Wise from Fetch Robotics and CMO Amy Leong from Formfactor. The STEM Corner currently has listeners from 10 countries around the world, including the United States.
Mahardja: Who would you most like to interview for future episodes of The STEM Corner?
Chatterjee: My podcast aims to provide minorities and curious individuals with exposure to STEM and motivation to pursue one’s dreams. So here’s my list:
- Vice President Kamala Harris – Similar to my parents, her parents also immigrated to the Bay Area. I would ask her what she has done to provide minority groups with more access to STEM opportunities.
- Andrea Meza: Miss Universe 2020 – Not only does Meza participate in pageants, but she also holds a degree in software engineering! Understanding how Meza finds a balance between pageants and engineering and hearing about her journey to break the disparity in STEM for minority groups is something I would love to learn about.
- Ajit Manocha CEO of SEMI – The SEMI Foundation has made a huge impact on me. I would like to learn about him and his plans for the future of SEMI.
Mahardja: What have you learned from your experiences in STEM activities?
Chatterjee: The biggest thing I have learned over the past few years after my experience with SEMI HTU’s three-day workshop and FIRST robotics is that I am a girl capable of anything. I am an entrepreneur, making my own ideas come to life, no matter how crazy they may seem. When I joined the robotics team, not only was I the only girl, but I had no prior experience in robotics.
A year later, I became the team captain for the Emberbots, a brand new team we added to the school’s robotics organization. I train 15 rookies and guide them to create a successful robot and develop a memorable season.
When I start to doubt my ability to do anything, I remind myself to persist! And that is how I was able to do everything I’ve wanted to do up to this point.
Mahardja: What’s next for you?
Chatterjee: I plan to attend a four-year university in the fall of 2023 and major in robotics research. Although I will be attending college soon, I hope to keep the podcast alive by interviewing people I meet along the way.
As a high schooler, I am able to host amazing speakers on The STEM Corner. I hope college will broaden my access to inspiring people willing to share their journeys and provide my followers with more content!
To learn more about SEMI High Tech U, please contact me at email@example.com or watch our video describing the program. Together, we can foster deeper connections between companies and local classrooms, influencing young people to pursue careers in STEM.
About the Author
Berton Mahardja is senior manager of Global Education Initiatives at SEMI. Prior to joining SEMI, Berton served in various roles across K-12 education. He is passionate about programs that support equitable STEM learning for students and adults.