November 17, 2004
Careers in computer science no longer intimidate students from Chandler’s Hamilton High School who will graduate tonight from High Tech U, a three-day job training program sponsored by Valley leaders in the semiconductor industry.
"After this, I definitely see myself in a high-tech career," said 15-year-old Hamilton sophomore Meta Sonhthipanya.
On Monday, Sonhthipanya and about 30 other handpicked Hamilton students from diverse backgrounds designed circuits on glass plates at the ASML complex in Tempe. They returned on Tuesday and built electrical circuits. Then they traveled to Arizona State University in Tempe, where they donned white "bunny" suits and entered a sterile chip production facility.
Today they will practice job interview techniques with the same managers who screen actual engineering applicants.
Hamilton senior Bria Williams, 17, said the hands-on activities have been eyeopeners — especially the work she did Tuesday building circuits.
"I like the fact that you can take something with so few parts and make something out of it," she said.
Hamilton teacher Richard Smith said he first experienced High Tech U this summer during a session for teachers and immediately started working to bring the program to the Valley for his students.
SEMI, a global industry association that serves semiconductor companies, previously presented the program to students in other states but never in Arizona. ASML, a provider of lithography systems, and microchip producer Intel signed on as sponsors for Hamilton.
The companies will work with the Hamilton students for the next three years in followup workshops.
During a graduation ceremony tonight at Hamilton, each High Tech U participant will receive a $50 paycheck from the sponsors — and one student will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Intel engineer Joanne Eberts, one of many volunteer instructors from the tech industry, told the students Tuesday about the career obstacles she overcame as a member of an immigrant family with one parent who was a high school dropout. She said she volunteered as an instructor because she has such a hard time finding qualified applicants when she conducts hiring for Intel.
"Maybe in eight years it won’t be as hard for me to find somebody to hire," Eberts told the students.