Each Friday, Tiffany Samra gets on her computer, clicks on Zoom and has interesting conversations with engineers.
Tiffany, 14, who will be a sophomore at Westlake High School in the fall, is the host of DiscoverE’s "Chats With Change Makers" series.
DiscoverE celebrates engineering and brings education in engineering and technology to schools. One of its programs is the Future City competition, which encourages students to form teams to solve an engineering problem.
When Tiffany was in sixth grade at West Ridge Middle School, she competed in Future City and her team won first place in the international competition. She was the youngest competitor, she says.
That year, the topic was all about public spaces. Her team wrote an essay and created a physical model of a water purification system. The solution was later used in real life in the Dominican Republic at a local school that didn’t have access to clean water. Her father and brothers brought it to the school while on a church mission trip.
"It’s still being used today," Tiffany says.
The folks at DiscoverE remembered Tiffany from her time doing Future City and reached out to her middle school teacher when they needed to shift in-person learning to virtual offerings.
Now, at 11 a.m. every Friday, at least through June, folks can watch Tiffany interviewing an engineer. You can find the "Chats With Change Makers" at discovere.org/chats-with-change-makers.
So far, she has interviewed a cyber engineer at Raytheon Co., an engineer at TE Connectivity who works with 3-D printers, an engineer at Collins Aerospace who designed spacesuits for astronauts working at the International Space Station, and a mechanical engineer at Shell.
DiscoverE helps her come up with the questions, and then she has a one-on-one interview over Zoom with the engineer. They talk about the job the engineer does, but they also talk about video games and music and other passions the engineer has.
"I got to have a lot of fun with them," she says.
Viewers can type in questions for the engineer if they are viewing the live show. They can also find the interviews on YouTube or on the DiscoverE site afterward.
Tiffany meets the engineer about 15 minutes before the show on Zoom, but she spends time prepping for the interview in advance by going over the questions she’s going to ask.
The vision for "Chats With Change Makers" was to have a young host to inspire elementary and middle schoolers to become interested in engineering, she says. "That’s why they chose me," she says.
The engineers are also fairly young and diverse, she says, "to show these kids that are watching that engineers aren’t these old men, and they have these fascinating jobs," she says.
"Every one of them has been very different, very interesting," she says.
One of the perks of winning the Future City competition was the team got to go to NASA’s Space Camp. Connecting with the engineer who had helped design spacesuits has been Tiffany’s favorite interview so far.
For that session, a viewer also asked a great question that Tiffany was wondering herself: What are the challenges of being a female in a workplace that’s male-dominated?
Tiffany hasn’t settled on a career quite yet, but she has a lot of interests that are not just science, technology, engineering and math. She’s on the school dance team and competes in dance. "It’s very stress-relieving," she says.
She also plays piano and guitar and loves to go mountain biking.
This summer, Tiffany, who turns 15 this month, will start learning how to drive as well as take a world history class so she can fit computer science into her school schedule.
"Chats With Change Makers" doesn’t pay, but it’s been a great internship for her, she says.