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From Africa to Austin: How a passion for STEM crossed the Atlantic Ocean

Sara SilvaSkillpoint is excited to introduce its new Velocity Program Lead, Sara Silva. Sara specializes in sparking students’ interest in STEM-related fields by connecting them with industry and community via relevant, hands-on work experience through the Velocity program. At Skillpoint, Sara oversees the delivery of the Velocity program; connects with schools and industry partners; and trains Velocity facilitators to ensure quality of the program. Before joining Skillpoint, Sara spent 20 years in industry as a network engineer at IBM in New York, and Lucent Technologies in New Jersey, and spent the last seven years in Ghana, West Africa as an IT manager and trainer for Blue Sea. Originally from Cape Verde Islands, Sara graduated from Syracuse University with a Masters in Computer Engineering.

We recently sat down with Sara and asked her about her passion for STEM, her vision for Velocity and what she likes about Austin. Read about it below:

When was the first time you became interested in STEM?
I would say in my teens. I grew up without technology so I was very eager to come to America and learn all about computers.

Why did you choose to go into a STEM field?
I wanted to learn all about what was inside computers and how they worked.

What is your favorite STEM concept?
I really enjoy going through a product cycle. Starting with the concept, and then designing, implementing, and debugging until the product actually performs the functions it is designed for.

What interested you in Skillpoint and Velocity?
The passion Skillpoint has for bridging the digital divide is really close to my heart. I have always wanted to be involved in education without necessarily becoming a teacher. I wanted to share my experience in my field and impart some of the curiosity and passion that drives me to hopefully spark a little interest in students’ minds.

What do you look forward to while working with Skillpoint?
Learning and growing from the process. Since the projects are all student-led, it has been fascinating to see what they are able to create when given free reign to explore their ideas.

What do you envision for Velocity?
The ability to expose students to state-of-the art technology in areas such as VR, nanotechnology and data visualization. As well as security to allow them to apply these technologies to issues they relate to personally and in their community.

Although you are a very busy person, what do you like to do in your free time?
I love movies, books and music so I fill my spare time with them. I also love to swim, so whenever I can, I try to be near a body of water; in the absence of the sea, rivers and lakes will do.

What do you enjoy most about living and working in Austin?
I really enjoy Austin’s energy. There is something for everyone: lots of music, technology, good food and good weather!

VelocityCapstone

Students presenting their Velocity Capstone project.