Student Invited to White House for Tech Summit

By Andrea Acosta and Nadia M. Whitehead

UTEP News Service

Just into her second semester as a University of Texas at El Paso electrical engineering student, Roya Edalatpour pulled off an incredible feat:  she earned a special invitation to attend the White House Tech Inclusion Summit this past January. 

The event – part of an initiative launched by President Barack Obama to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates – gave students the opportunity to participate in talks aimed at ensuring all youth have the opportunity to partake in the technology sector, particularly those from underserved and historically underrepresented communities.Electrical engineering undergraduate Roya Edalatpour received a special invitation to attend the White House Tech Inclusion Summit, held this past January, which was part of an initiative launched by President Barack Obama to increase the number of minority STEM graduates in the United States.Electrical engineering undergraduate Roya Edalatpour received a special invitation to attend the White House Tech Inclusion Summit, held this past January, which was part of an initiative launched by President Barack Obama to increase the number of minority STEM graduates in the United States.

“This was not only an amazing opportunity to develop myself professionally, but also a chance to inform our politicians of the importance of providing youth and minorities with a STEM education, which will prepare them for careers in our rapidly developing world,” Edalatpour said.

Humbled by the experience, Edalatpour said it was a great honor to represent UTEP and the youth of the country at the White House.

“It was a chance for me to tell my story – a story that resembles that of many other young Americans across the nation with aspirations of changing the world through technological advancements,” she said.

Edalatpour’s passion for engineering started in seventh grade when she took part in a robotics class.

“I was the only girl in my whole class,” she said. “It didn’t matter though, because at the moment everything felt right, and I knew that I was where I needed to be.”

Her passion continued throughout high school while attending the Harmony Science Academy, a charter school in El Paso. She took part in the school’s robotics program and participated in competitions, which she considered a "sport of the mind."

“I enjoyed the thrill of competing,” Edalatpour said. “Spending late nights at school trying to perfect a robot, troubleshooting, failing and triumphing, leading a team, sticking together and learning; and throughout all these experiences I came to learn that I wanted to be an electrical engineer.”   

Not only did her STEM awareness grow while mentoring middle school students enrolled in the robotics program, but she also realized that she needed to spread awareness to other students.

“I came to realize that my passion was to spread my love and knowledge of STEM to younger children so that they too may one day discover their future in a STEM career,” she said.

In 2011, Edalatpour’s hard work was recognized when she received the Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology, an organization that seeks to recognize young women with big accomplishments in the technology field.

Edalatpour believes the support from professors and mentors within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has helped her achieve her professional goals, including attending conferences like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

In addition, Edalatpour is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and the Student Government Association Excel Program, and president of the First Year Incoming Scholars Organization. She has also received internship offers from General Electric Aviation and Lockheed Martin.

“Ms. Edalatpour is an outstanding example of a student that has embraced all opportunities that UTEP offers,” said Miguel Reyes-Velez, Ph.D., professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering. “We are proud of her many achievements in such a short time. She is a great role model for our students.”

Scott Starks, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering, also shared Reyes’ sentiments.

“I’m very impressed that someone her age has been able to accomplish so much,” he said. “Roya has done such an amazing job providing guidance to other students on the path to success.”

Edalatpour attributes the seed planted during her seventh grade robotics class with inspiring her to accomplish such goals.

“Education is a very important seed that is planted in each and every one of us,” she said. “However, only through the help and support of the people around us – educators, communities and parents – are we able to foster that growth and bloom into the leaders of tomorrow.”