UC Merced

Mobile STEM Lab one of many meaningful projects at Innovate to Grow

Identify a problem and figure out a way to fix it. For senior Jesus Perez, this was the overarching theme of UC Merced’s biannual Innovate to Grow showcase and his project, the Mobile Maker Lab.

About 30 teams from Engineering Service Learning (ESL) and the Capstone Innovation Design Clinic (IDC) presented their projects at the fall event last week.

Perez, a mechanical engineering major, is the project manager of the Mobile Maker Lab, a vehicle that can provide access to a STEM-related educational experience for K-12 students in areas where subject material may be lacking.

Perez led his ESL teammates through the concept phase of the Mobile Maker Lab this semester, from deciding which grade level to target first — they decided on third grade — to the vehicle’s layout. The assembling of the Mobile Maker Lab will extend into next semester.

“Some people have to wait until they graduate and get a job to make a difference, but for us, we get a head start,” Perez said. “It not only helps us gain the experience, but it helps us give back to the community.”

Other projects showcased at Innovate to Grow included bringing a children’s museum to Merced County, designing a device that effectively separates debris from the field run in almond harvesting, and developing a swaddle for premature infants with neonatal jaundice that can provide the same UV light as a bili light. E&J Gallo Winery, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Valley Children’s Hospital are a few of the organizations that partnered with the students for their projects.

Once complete, the Mobile Maker Lab will travel to county fairs and schools, among other destinations. The Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) plans to use the Mobile Maker Lab within the county’s 21 districts and has provided guidance as Perez and the team piece the project together.

Though Innovate to Grow has a competitive aspect to it, with judges helping to determine which projects win cash prizes, Perez said the goal of the showcase extends beyond first place.

“I’m more focused on the impact that it will have, so win or lose, that doesn’t really matter to me,” the Merced native said. “We aren’t the only team, so all of these projects are going to have an impact, and that means the most to me.”

Campus Welcomes Newest Graduates at Fall Commencement

More than 140 students became proud UC Merced alumni Saturday, Dec. 15, at Fall Commencement at the Art Kamangar Center in the Merced Theatre. Students receiving their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees were honored in front of a theater full of friends and family.

Chancellor Dorothy Leland congratulated the students on their achievements and their roles in helping guide the future at UC Merced.

“You are all pioneers, helping us build a culture of inquiry, discovery and learning that will last for generations,” Leland said. “You have persevered through challenges and overcome obstacles, and here you are, more prepared than ever to succeed in whatever field you choose to enter.

“Whatever differences we have, being a part of UC Merced is one thing that unites us — we are all proud Bobcats.”

Alum David Do (’09) delivered the commencement address. Do works in the Washington, D.C., Mayor’s Office as the interim director of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles. He was part of UC Merced’s first graduating class and helped spearhead the campaign to bring First Lady Michelle Obama to campus to deliver the commencement address in 2009.

Do discussed his trials in becoming the first in his family to graduate college and what he has learned since his time on campus.

“Learn to appreciate your differences because oftentimes those differences become the strengths and skills that will make you stand out to others,” Do said. “I encourage you to find your niche – an area that you’re passionate about and work extremely hard at it.

“Do not let the fear of being different stand in your way.”

The recent graduates join a Bobcat alumni family that now has more than 9,000 members.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the campus’s Public Relations team. To contact the team, email PR@ucmerced.edu.