Jolene Begay at Intel Brings Computer Science to the Navajo

Project STH 001 How Jolene Begay Brought Computer Science To The Navajo Web Cover
Project STH 001 How Jolene Begay Brought Computer Science To The Navajo Web Cover

Today, I am pleased to announce the first installment of Project STH. Before we get comments, below, I wholeheartedly agree that I lack creativity in naming our STH projects. In this article, we are going to give a brief overview of this new project since it is a major departure from the first almost 12 years of coverage at STH. Then, and most importantly, we are going to discuss how Jolene Begay, an engineer at Intel brought computer science to the Navajo people.

Project STH Introduction

As a quick background, in November 2020, I hit the point where I wanted to do something beyond just looking at hardware, still related, but more purposeful. While I get dozens of “company XYZ donated millions of dollars to this university with a multi-billion dollar endowment” pitches from companies each month, and those are important, a company donating money to a university to better educate the top 10% of Earth’s inhabitants rarely if ever rises to what I wanted to cover. As such, I decided that I wanted to instead tell the story of people who are making an impact by bringing technology to areas of this world that do not have access.

While you, reading this article and watching the accompanying YouTube video (remembering to subscribe) have to have some minimum level of technology to do so, we must remember that it is not 1,000, 100,000, or even a million people that lack that access decades after it became commonplace elsewhere. Well over 1-in-10 people on the planet today do not have access to even read this article or watch the video. This series is on the courageous individuals who seek to change the world helping people get access to, and opportunity through technology.

I gave companies simple criteria:

  • Must be hands-on. Not just a cash/ supplies gift.
  • Must be to an underserved segment/ in the developing world.
  • Must be employees working outside their normal roles and not a corporate-level gift.

I want this series to highlight those in the tech industry who are going that extra mile in finding ways to give their knowledge and time to help those who simply have little to no access to the technological changes driving humanity. Specifically, I want to ask those doing work about how they observed a need, what they did to address the need, and finally how they overcame the inertia of inaction to change the world.

To this end, I gave the external marketing firm that handles all of STH’s ad sales a target for this year. If they hit a revenue target, we are going to set up an award to further help those undertaking these works. I would much rather give STH awards for this than to technology products. I cannot fund that if we are not turning a profit, so Virginia and team, this is up to you to make it happen. No pressure :-)

There are many great causes. Frankly, the hardest part of this series, aside from the global pandemic, has been having to put the filter on and keep the scope constrained. Many people in the technology community have been doing great work for many important causes. While I would love to cover them all, applying the filter and saying “no” to covering these undoubtedly great efforts was a gut-wrenching process for me to do.

With that introduction, it is time to get to our first installment of Project STH.

Jolene Begay at Intel Brings Computer Science to the Navajo

Our first feature is on Jolene Begay who is an Intel engineer by day, but also led a campaign to help bring STEM education to the Navajo community. We are not going to get into the topic of why or how there are largely self-governing Native American tribes and reservations. For those of our readers outside of the US, who are not familiar, there is a system, albeit imperfect, in the US where those tribes calling North America home prior to the various waves of migrations from elsewhere, are able to have largely autonomous communities that can continue to live in the rich traditions handed down through generations. As one can imagine, and I urge our readers and viewers to learn more about, the path to our present-day reality has had many challenges. For the purposes of this feature, the important background is that autonomy often means Native American tribal reservations have significantly fewer STEM education opportunities than almost anywhere else in the US. This is wholly different from when one hears about inner-city or rural US access to technology.

With that background, I hopped on a Microsoft Teams call with Jolene and she graciously agreed to spend her time sharing her story. I think her goal in many ways is aligned to my goal in this series which is to highlight those doing good in this world so as to inspire others. With that, let us get to the interview.

As always, we suggest opening this video on YouTube for a better experience than the embedded player offers.

A major part of this series is that I want our readers to hear from those making an impact directly. As such, this is going to be more of a video series. Originally this was designed to be a written project, but looking at this experience, and where I want the project to go, I came to the realization that it needed to be a video project.

Final Words

Again, I wanted to say thank you to Jolene for taking a few moments to share her story. Also, I want to give credit to Intel for supporting Jolene’s work. If every company supported its employees in similar ways, I think the world would be a better place for it. It takes courage to go first in a series like this.

I know this is different from our standard hardware coverage, but to me, it is perhaps more impactful. We have big plans for this series, we just need a certain global pandemic to end. Feel free to leave respectful comments below. Also, if you know of any co-workers or if you have a similar story yourself, I would love to hear them. I have been busy building a pipeline of these features to highlight on a regular basis. The goal is not just to highlight those who are at big companies but get to the broader technology community.


  1. I know we don’t normally comment on STH articles. I don’t live in the US. I’ve never heard of the Navajo. But this woman did a great thing to help kids.

  2. Its neat to see these efforts get some coverage, since volunteering for these sorts of efforts is what got me into PC hardware and homelabbing. In my case it was refurbishing/recapping decently modern computers that would have otherwise been e-wasted due to the capacitor plague or other misc failures to send them to kids in need in orphanages in central america. I also got to keep the stuff that worked but was too old to be of use for them (software/hardware compatibility), which is how I ended up building my first PC (not shared with anyone else) and starting my homelab.

  3. i’m not american but the american indian are not rich with the casino ?
    i follow a lot of news about the great communism of indian tribe with great revenue of casino and hotel

  4. @Stefan – IDK where you are from, but I am not from there. I would not be assuming to know how your disadvantaged people live…

  5. Oh wow. This is a really cool thing to be doing, STH. And, it’s in the vein of what Louis Rossmann always talks about where the individual can impart great change in the world by starting with making his or her small corner of it suck a little less. Then others see that and decide to do the same in their corners. Mrs. Begay should be very proud of her work. I look forward to more of this coverage in the future. Great idea all round. :-)

  6. I think we should say great job to Jolene Begay

    Also thanks to STH for doing the coverage. But she’s the one doing the work.


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