IMPACT-LA Fellows | Spotlight

Second class of
IMPACT-LA Fellows:

Starring as teaching fellows in the second season of IMPACT LA are nine Cal State L.A. graduate students working at area schools. Drawing upon their research areas for material, they are introducing concepts, developing hands-on activities, enriching curriculum and inspiring students to see science as fun and exciting.

Jessica Alvarenga, electrical engineering major
School: Roosevelt High School
Research focus: Control algorithms for a large segmented space telescope testbed

Sean Caonguyen, biochemistry major
School: Roosevelt High School
Research focus: Lipid-transfer proteins in the development and aging of the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana; bioinformatics and plant evolution

Saray Felix, biology major
School: Hollenbeck Middle School
Research focus: Sendai virus

Tiffany Kwong, physics major
School: Stevenson Middle School
Research focus: Photoluminescence of quantum dots related to biophysics

Victor Mejia, computer science major
School: Roosevelt High School
Research focus: Development of an object-tracking algorithm for real-time automated video analysis

Ricardo Sanchez, biochemistry major
School: Stevenson Middle School
Research focus: Creation of software that uses protein structural data to predict oxidation susceptibility

Danielle Trathen, biology major
School: Stern Math and Science School
Research focus: Gene flow and larval connectivity patterns of sea slug populations in the Caribbean

Johnson Wang, electrical/computer engineering major
School: Roosevelt High School
Research focus: Implementation of motion-estimation calculation for the H.264 video compression standard on field programmable gated array (FPGA)

Mo Zhang, electrical engineering major
School: Hollenbeck Middle School
Research focus: Design of a tremor assessment task, including a disease-analyzing algorithm and a Tablet PC, to accurately assess Parkinson’s patients

IMPACT LA nudges children toward STEM

Cal State L.A. grad students plunge into area schools as local schoolchildren paddle across campus pool

Picture of IMPACT LA summer camp participant Jarvis Nguyen.
Pictured: Jarvis Nguyen navigates the cardboard boat, built by his team, across the pool first during the IMPACT LA summer camp boat race.

Dispatching a soggy, rapidly absorbing cardboard box-turned-boat (reinforced with duct tape) across the Cal State L.A. swimming pool was actually part of a dry run for nine Cal State L.A. students selected as this year’s group of IMPACT LA Graduate Teaching Fellows.

The fellows—Jessica Alvarenga, Sean Caonguyen, Saray Felix, Tiffany Kwong, Victor Mejia, Ricardo Sanchez, Danielle Trathen, Johnson Wang, and Mo Zhang—organized a two-day camp for 50 local schoolchildren from the 3rd through 9th grades. The camp gave the fellows a clearer sense of what to expect this fall when they became immersed in classrooms at area schools.

Picture of IMPACT-LA Fellows.
Pictured (l-r): Danielle Trathen, Johnson Wang, Tiffany Kwong, Ricardo Sanchez, Mo Zhang, Saray Felix, Victor Mejia, Sean Caonguyen, and Jessica Alvarenga. [Click photo for a higher-resolution image.]

As IMPACT-LA Fellows, the graduate students serve as visiting scientists and engineers at Theodore Roosevelt High School, Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School, and Hollenbeck Middle School, partnering with the schools’ teachers to foster students’ interest and fascination in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) program, IMPACT stands for Improving Minority Partnerships and Access through Computer/Information Science/Engineering-related Teaching. It pairs college graduate students with local K-12 math or science teachers.

Nancy Warter-Perez, a Cal State L.A. professor of electrical and computer engineering, directs IMPACT LA. “The goal of the summer camp, the culmination of a summer workshop series, was to prepare the fellows for the classroom by having them plan and develop fun, educational science and engineering activities.”

The fellow-led activities focused on slime (the science behind polymers); extracting DNA from strawberries; rockets fueled by carbon dioxide; Morse code with self-built telegraphs; projectile motion with a monster sling shot; wind-turbine generators; and other scientific phenomena.

The children demonstrated their creativity and design skills in two engineering team challenges—Mars Rover Egg Drop Contest and the Cardboard Boat Race.

Biology major Danielle Trathen said, “I enjoyed watching the kids learn and engage excitedly in the camps activities. I really liked working with kids from different age ranges. It was good practice for learning how to modify the way I teach for children of differing grade levels.”

Bioengineering major Mo Zhang said, “During the summer camp, I repeated my activities five times and by the end my gestures became more natural, the activity became more fun and interesting, and I started asking students more questions.”

Cal State L.A. received a five-year $3 million grant from NSF to support the University’s IMPACT LA program. Each fellow has been awarded a $30,000 stipend, along with $10,500 for fees, books and travel, to conduct research and develop classroom activities.

Find out more about IMPACT LA at the following links: