While attending Purdue University on an academic scholarship, Gaston Tamboura, a Senegalese immigrant, found his passion for teaching. A fellow student had spotted him working on their calculus homework and remarked how difficult it had been. By the time Tamboura finished explaining it to her, she marveled, “Wow. It’s that easy?” Soon after he organized a group called the Excellence Club, or E-Club for short, where fellow students could tutor one another. The group grew to 100 students and Tamboura recalled one person who took him aside on graduation day and told him, “If it wasn’t for E-Club, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
These days, a decade later and thousands of miles away at Techmart, an office center amid a corridor of high-tech companies in Santa Clara, Tamboura works as a senior business consultant for Tata Consultancy Services, a global IT company based in India. He has also taken his passion for education and dug new roots in Silicon Valley.
In 2008, right after college, Tamboura joined Intel as a software engineer, where he volunteered in a company program that empowered middle school girls with technology skills. He witnessed first-hand, he said, “In a single day, these kids were absorbing knowledge and picking up the engineering lingo.” As word spread, he began fielding requests from other organizations asking him to create similar one-day programs and workshops for local youth. Seeing the need, Tamboura created the nonprofit Engineers 4 Tomorrow–or, E4T, as he calls it–which provides free workshops for middle school students and aims to reach underserved communities that are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Established in Santa Clara in 2013, the nonprofit holds STEM workshops twice a year. Their most recent workshop took place on Saturday, May 13, at Santa Clara University, in collaboration with the campus chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Registration filled up quickly a few of weeks ago and, by their count, E4T expected 150 kids–middle school students from fifth to eighth grade–to show up and take 10 different hands-on immersive workshops on everything from bridge building to rocket propulsion and basic programming, all led by a team of 20 volunteer instructors.
This was the fourth time SCU hosted the workshop. But, in an effort to accommodate those kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to travel, E4T switches up locations regularly throughout the Bay Area. Past workshops have been hosted by the Oakland Unified School District and Cañada College in Redwood City.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. When he first got his idea, Tamboura knew he had to get more people on board and sent out 50 emails to colleagues and other people in his network. He got a total of three responses. He pressed on and now E4T is run by a team of six, and boasts a ready network of engineers from tech giants like Intel, Google and Facebook, who volunteer to teach and mentor. But the organization is always looking for volunteers whether they’re engineers or not. “Anyone can contribute their expertise,” Tamboura said. “We believe everyone can be an agent for change.”
To date, E4T programs have served more than 600 kids from the Bay Area. But Tamboura has an even more ambitious vision. “Why not have classes year round?” he said. Nodding in the direction of the nearby Santa Clara Convention Center, he proposed, “Or bring 500 kids at once to the convention center where companies can come and teach workshops?”
Ultimately, Tamboura said, even if these kids don’t all become scientists and engineers, “it’s good for them to exercise their creativity and to learn in general.”