UC Merced Connect: Team's goal to interest kids in science

March 26, 2013 

One group of engineering students is focusing on tiny ways to make big strides in education.

A 10-member Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network team is developing a piece of curriculum that is good enough to become part of the national NISE Net catalog -- a hub for anyone to access and learn more about nanoscale technology.

But their catalog item is being developed with seventh-graders in mind.

Like all other teams in The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning, the students on the NISE Net team have a community-partner client.

In this case, it's a seventh-grade science teacher at Cruikshank Middle School who wants them to come up with something that will help keep his students engaged in science learning and spark their imaginations.

"We're thinking about lasers and optics," said team leader Cesar Gamez, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student from Sacramento.

This work is one more way UC Merced is expanding its reach into the Merced community and throughout the scientific community.

Launched in 2005, NISE Net is led by 14 museums and universities across the nation, and is funded by the National Science Foundation, according to its website.

The online catalog is a storehouse of educational products for use in informal education settings to engage people in nano science, engineering and technology. It features educational programs and activities, media, exhibits, evaluation reports, and tools and guides for professional educators.

All products in the catalog created by the NISE Network are reviewed by scientists and educators, and evaluated with visitors, and most are available for free downloads, the website said.

UC Merced's NISE Net students work with School of Engineering Professor Valerie Leppert as their faculty mentor.

They will develop a lab based on ideas that work for the seventh-grade students, testing it on them to make sure the lab will keep kids engaged and interested in learning.

"We want them to learn about wavelengths and light properties," said team member Bianca Martinez, a fifth-year bioengineering student from Paramount.

She got interested in nanotechnology and its medical applications after taking a course at UC Merced. "The biggest challenge is how to convey the information."

Campus recognized

for innovation

International Data Group's Computerworld Honors Program has named UC Merced as a 2013 Laureate. The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change.

UC Merced received the award for its Mobile App Challenge, which launched in 2011 to create an exceptional learning and professional growth experience for students.

Among the 2013 Laureates also in the innovation category are Cisco, HP and the World Wide Web Consortium.

Career Services Director Brian O'Bruba says the award is an honor to receive.

"Student success is the paramount objective of the Mobile App Challenge," O'Bruba said. "The project embraces progressive strategies designed to retain high-risk students and prepare them for future careers, and it has the potential to become a national model for change."

Now in its second year, the Mobile App Challenge continues to be the catalyst for UC Merced students to launch business ideas or an emerging technology that could benefit society immediately or in the future.

Student innovators are introduced to the app development process and to mentors from the technology community. This year, the number of teams has more than doubled with undergraduate and graduate students participating.

The Computerworld Honors Program awards will be presented June 3 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

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