On Presentation/Competition Day, the 53 Summer in Silicon Valley students from four countries dress sharply, the men in suits and ties, the women in business formal wear. The tension in the hallway is palpable. The pressure of presenting an engineering project in another language -- from memory -- cannot be overstated, and some nervously murmur their recitations. Their final Silicon Valley class is about to begin.
Just three weeks before, the jet-lagged students arrived at SJSU and were met with a warm Opening Ceremony organized by Dr. Richard Chung, SSV’s Director. Dean Sheryl Ehrman took to the podium to kick off the welcome and encouraged the students to step out of their comfort zones during their time here.
"You are all sitting at tables with students from your school, students who speak your language," she said. "I hope that by the end of the program, you will be sitting with other tables. The culture of innovation requires that people meet and talk with people they don’t know."
As the program progressed, all 53 students did just that; they were separated into teams and assigned engineering projects that ranged from water filtration systems to behavior/face recognition technology. Michelle Espinoza, a co-coordinator, noticed that the collaborative efforts put into these projects even forged some meaningful connections.
"Many of the students have taken their time after team projects to have lunch or dinner with their team members and they have built great relationships," said Espinoza. "It’s been a great experience seeing these students become close friends."
In addition to newfound friendship, the students gained important skills that they wouldn’t otherwise learn in their home countries.
"Where they come from, they don’t get a chance to speak up," Chung said of the students, "but in this program they must ALL speak up, and testify about their project. This is a huge challenge, but meeting that challenge becomes a source of deep pride and empowerment."
After all, the program aims to improve the students’ communication and business acumen, as well as encourage spirited entrepreneurship. They were able to get a sense of all three firsthand when they were treated to tours of Silicon Valley’s most notable campuses.
"The field trips to places like Facebook have inspired me to work here. The weather is also something I like here! I would definitely recommend this program to my friends back home," said SSV student Fengrui Xiao.
The growth of the program as a whole is a priority for Chen Yang, co-coordinator of SSV. In the near future, she would love to get more faculty and alumni involved and even hopes to apply the model to other colleges here at SJSU.
"Silicon Valley attracts people from all over the world. Incorporating other talents from alumni and students in different majors could help make this program even better by increasing exposure and the exchange of information."
For now, Summer in Silicon Valley remains a thriving program specific to the College of Engineering. With the last presentation over and the Closing Ceremony forthcoming, the three-week program wraps up. Judging by the students’ elated expressions, nervous and stoic just hours before, Summer in Silicon Valley was again a smashing success.