Alexis Kam

Cal State LA engineering graduate seeks to build a sustainable future

17-year-old Studio City resident is one of the youngest graduates in the university's Class of 2020

Alexis Kam

By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service

Alexis Kam dreams of building cities of the future, where sustainable design helps create a healthy, productive environment.

The 17-year-old Kam will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology. 

“Through innovative design and sustainable engineering,” Kam says, “I can help make the world a better place or help improve people’s lives.”

Her ambition is to design energy-efficient buildings to make cities and communities more sustainable. With climate change and global warming, Kam says she has a responsibility to use her design skills to help raise awareness about energy conservation and other environmental issues.

The Studio City resident is one of the youngest graduates in Cal State LA’s Class of 2020. She was 12 years old when she enrolled at the university through the Early Entrance Program. The program, which has accepted highly gifted students as young as 11 years old, is administered by the Honors College.

As a child, Kam considered becoming a doctor and pursuing a career in health care, but she later realized she could help people and still make a difference in other ways.

At Cal State LA, she worked part time as a machine shop/mechanical design assistant and as an instructional student assistant for two statics courses.

Kam also participated in the university’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle project. The vehicle is a small robotic submarine designed to navigate underwater obstacle courses.

Kam credits Cal State LA for providing opportunities that enabled her to grow as a student and launch her on a successful career path.

“Cal State LA has taught me to be more well-rounded and resilient, especially being a female in a field that is majority male,” she says. “The environment in my department is super collaborative. I really enjoy the opportunity to interact with students and faculty from diverse backgrounds and experiences.”

For her senior project, she led a team of four Cal State LA students in designing a small-scale office building for energy efficiency research. The project aimed to reduce energy usage by testing different wall materials and configurations, as well as to maximize the efficiency of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

“Alexis is an outstanding student and her undergraduate records can easily corroborate it,” says Professor Arturo Pacheco-Vega, who was Kam’s faculty advisor on the senior design project. “More importantly, she has an outstanding attitude—in terms of her commitment, sense of responsibility, and discipline. That is crucial to achieve success.”

A Dean’s List student, Kam is a recipient of a Boeing Student Scholarship, an Elliott R. Barton Scholarship, a Theodore W. Nye and Ann M. Nye Scholarship, and a STEM Advantage Scholarship.

She also volunteered for Heal the Bay and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, working on projects to help keep coastal waters safe and clean.

Kam helped start the Association for Women in Science at Cal State LA, which she says is one of her major accomplishments. As a member of the organization’s executive board, she encouraged students who were women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). They organized presentations and workshops and participated in networking and career and research opportunities.

“Our goal is to get more young women interested in STEM and to see themselves as future engineers or scientists,” says Kam, who is considering applying to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in engineering with a focus on sustainable design.