The Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program hosted its 14th annual Science and Technology Day on Saturday, allowing junior and high school students from the Tri-County area to explore fields of science, engineering and mathematics through a myriad of events hosted throughout campus.

The annual event — held in collaboration with Los Ingenieros, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science — aims to provide local, traditionally underrepresented students with a positive view of the hard sciences. 600 junior and high school students engaged in hands-on activities and educational events, such as science experiments and competitions, during the day-long event that lasted from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Science and technology workshops took place at Campbell Hall, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and the engineering buildings, while California State Assemblymember Das Williams delivered a commencement speech at Campbell Hall to kick off the event.

Williams, who is also the chair of the State Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education, said the pursuit of higher education in scientific fields is essential for both the progression of American society as well as for the enhancement of each student’s learning experience. According to Williams, such benefits make it necessary that students engage in these fields, even if these subjects may be more difficult than others.

“I can tell you about taking science classes and taking mathematics classes — they are tougher; you won’t get ‘A’s as often, but the results in the kind of richness of an education that you can have and in the richness of a career should not be underestimated,” Williams said. “There is no reason that you all can’t do advanced math and you can’t do science or engineering or other technology fields.”

Workshop Coordinator Jenny Lei, co-president of the Society of Advancement for Chicanos and Native Americans in Science and a fourth-year mechanical engineering major, said while Science and Technology Day focuses on certain academic fields, it also allows junior and high school students to learn about pursuing higher education degrees that are not traditionally sought after by underrepresented minorities.

“It’s really an event to inspire and motivate the students to pursue a college education in general,” Lei said. “[It is] particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields because there aren’t enough people in them right now, especially students that are first-generation, minorities, underprivileged, etc.”

Workshop activities ranged from marshmallow catapult making to solar-powered car building in addition to a number of educational competitions, such as contests for bridge testing and robotic tug-of-war. All activities were hosted by college students and volunteers from the local business community.

According to Mario Castellanos, director of the Office of Education Partnerships and program director for MESA, students can advance the work they complete during Science and Technology Day workshops by submitting this work to regional, state and national competitions later. Last year, a sixth grade team from UCSB’s Science and Technology Day took home the victory in the Prosthetic Arm Design Challenge of MESA’s National Engineering Design Competition.

Brianna Ramos, an eighth grade student from Fremont Intermediate in Oxnard, said she participated in the event as she hopes to eventually become a chemical engineer. According to Ramos, Science and Technology Day presents students like herself with the opportunity to learn new ideas and better understand their everyday surroundings in both a fun and accessible way.

“I think it’s more fun. I guess it’s worth it to wake up early in the morning,” Ramos said. “It helps me get a better understanding of the way things work…Actually looking into how things work, not just ‘Oh, it’s just that plain old thing.’”

Students interested in helping out with workshops or competitions at future Science and Technology Days can contact MESA online or through their direct telephone number (805) 893-8333.


This article appeared on page 6 of February 25th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.