“Where can I buy such a laser? » USC and Amazon Program Engage Underrepresented Students in STEM – USC Viterbi


Stimulating STEM students, Photo credit: USC/ISI

USC Institute for Information Science (ISI) and Amazon joined forces to offer a four-week summer program that exposed underrepresented high school students to multiple topics within STEM. Named Stimulating STEM, this 2022 edition is the first of its kind and currently the only free residential summer program at USC.

Thanks to a grant from Amazon, the program is free for its participants, reducing financial barriers to access.

The program, which ran from June 20 to July 18, was led by Jamani King and Lisa Bland under ISI Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Initiative, and started with a few words of wisdom.

Learning about robotics, Photo credit: Laura Wencel/ISI

“Meet people, converse, engage with the researchers and faculty members you meet,” King told the orienta.tion, “because locking down those connections now can help you throughout your education and career.”

Students were immersed in a number of research areas within STEM, such as robotics, coding, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and space engineering. In many cases, they were able to apply their knowledge to something practical, such as building a robot out of LEGO bricks and connecting it to a battery to set it in motion. These hands-on learning tactics have proven most appealing, with students frequently traveling to ISI’s headquarters in Marina del Rey, away from USC’s main campus in Los Angeles. They toured and interacted with the state-of-the-art technology housed in the building.

Lasers, satellites, collisions and more!

The high school students received instruction from some of ISI’s most distinguished faculty, such as space engineer David Barnhart, director of ISI’s Space Engineering Research Center.

Under Barnhart’s guidance, they were able to engage with ISI students, faculty, and technology and ask questions about space systems. Barnhart has captured the attention of this young audience. The mention of “a gripper that looks like an octopus” and “a special laser” caught the attention of all participants. “Where can I buy such a laser?… for a friend, of course”, jokes a student. Barnhart also showed off a replica of the satellite he built with his team and sent into space last January.

The students were also fascinated by the story of a satellite collision and the resulting cloud of debris. “If we don’t clean it up, the particles stay in space for thousands of years because there’s no outside force to push them away,” Barnhart described to a speechless group.

Zero gravity but lots of fun

Hockey table, Photo credit: Laura Wencel/ISI

The affectionately named “hockey table” – a surface used to simulate a weightless environmentment – proved to be particularly exciting, as was the need to wear safety glasses when interacting with him. Using the remote control, the students took turns the machine and watches it glide across the weightless table. Helping Barnhart lead the discussion was ISI ststudents, eager to answer all questions from high school students.

Such stimulating exposure to fields and technologies that would not otherwise have been accessible to these students, increased their awareness of future career opportunities. “I wanted to do civil engineering, but now I think I want to do aerospace engineering,” said Linette, 17, after a particularly passionate discussion about space systems and aerospace technology with Professor Barnhart.

More than just academics

In addition to academics, students were also able to experience other aspects of college life at USC by staying in student housing, studying at the Olin Hall of Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and dining in the refectory.

“I was very pleased with the program and the staff,” said Shenell Glover, mother of Marcus, one of the program participants. “This program wasis well-organized and offered participants the opportunity to explore various STEM goals and campus life.

The program aimed to create a strong sense of community and trust among the students through team development and leadership activities that began at orientation and continued throughout the four weeks. Social activities were also present, with the group celebrating the 4th of July together. By the end of the four weeks, the students were a tightly knit group of friends, bonding over shared technologynd engineering interests.

Building a robot, Photo credit: Laura Wencel/ISI

Exposure to its campus, faculty, and students has also made USC an exciting prospect for program participants. “Marcus is very excited to start his STEM career and hopefully attend USC after this program,” Glover explained.

However, perhaps one of the most important effects of Stimulating STEM is the increased confidence students have in themselves. When asked how this program helped her define her future goals, Linette said, “Before, I was just thinking about getting my bachelor’s degree, but the program made me want to pursue a master’s degree. »

This newfound self-confidence and passion for STEM is shared by many students who have participated in the summer program. “At the end of the program, 85% of our students said they saw themselves pursuing a STEM-based career and 100% of our students said they had fun and were inspired by the program,” explained King, the program’s creator and director. With the aim of beingComing an annual summer program, Stimulating STEM will continue to grow and expand, inspiring underrepresented students to explore and pursue careers in STEM.

Posted on August 4, 2022

Last updated August 3, 2022


Comments are closed.