Instagram helps students communicate their understanding of nanoparticles when USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor Eun Ji Chung comes to 32nd Street LAUSD/USC Media Arts & Engineering Magnet School. Partnering with teacher Riann Lawrence, Dr. Chung engages middle schoolers in how she uses nanoparticles in her biomedical engineering research into revolutionary types of medicine. When the new mass spectrometer arrives this fall at Huntington Park Institute of Applied Medicine, Chemical Engineering Professor Nicholas Graham will advise teachers how to use it in their labs and lesson plans; he will also bring their students to USC to show how he uses such methods in his cancer research. Building a wind tunnel and then testing 3-D printed designs within it for aerodynamic efficiency are what Professor Mitul Luhar offers to the STEM Academy of Hollywood, supporting Principal Paul Hirsch’s addition of aerospace engineering to his school’s college and career pathways.
These are just a few examples of how dozens of USC Viterbi professors partner with preK-12 school principals and teachers throughout Southern California. Before the schools break for summer vacation in June, USC Viterbi’s engineering professors are finalizing outreach plans for the fall semester and also for the next five years, which is how long most of these collaborations last. The goal is to share the broader impacts of faculty research with schools through innovative, project-based learning that demonstrates how a STEM education helps society find solutions to serious world challenges – sometimes called the Grand Challenges. These partnerships are encouraged and supported by the National Science Foundation as well as by USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. The experience of Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher (VAST) is that when professors partner with K-12 schools and open their USC labs to demonstrate their research, then K-12 students become more motivated to understand STEM core concepts and envision themselves as contributing to improvements in society.
Here are some of the partnerships launched by USC Viterbi professors —
Professor Megan McCain opens her biomedical engineering lab regularly to the students of physics teacher Nathan Brown of Orthopedic Medical Magnet High School to show how she uses centrifuges and 3-D printers to research in vitro heart cells as a new way of understanding heart tissue and testing new drugs.
Materials Science Professor Jayakanth Ravichandran has worked for two years in collaboration with math professor Mr. Robert Hately at the Environmental Science and Environmental Technologies High School in Carson to demonstrate his research at the Center for Microscopy and Microanalysis.
The new STEM Academy of Boyle Heights is only three years old, so the biology students there do their bench research in a classroom instead of a lab. Biomedical Engineering Professor Keyue Shen is collaborating with biology teacher Sandra Huang to use his stem cell research on cancer as a way to help 9th graders understand genetics, cell differentiation, and hypoxia.
Environmental Engineering Professor Adam Smith encourages high school students to conduct research by inviting them into his lab. One student has won several awards for her work in his lab, and Dr. Smith also participates in the Summer High School Intensive in Next Generation Engineering (SHINE) program.
Electrical Engineering Professor Mahdi Soltanolkotabi plans to work with Nava College Prep Academy students in the Exponential Entrepreneurs program to teach them how “big data” and the “internet of things” can help them to use census data as they explore ways to improve their South Los Angeles neighborhood.