UC Merced

Drones, augmented reality and robots. UC Merced offers fun at Merced County Fair

Young people fly in drones in the Drone Cage, where they try to avoid obstacles and experience the growing field of unmanned-vehicle flight. This and other science-based activities will be offered by UC Merced to people attending the Merced County Fair.
Young people fly in drones in the Drone Cage, where they try to avoid obstacles and experience the growing field of unmanned-vehicle flight. This and other science-based activities will be offered by UC Merced to people attending the Merced County Fair.

The county fair offers food and fun, and thanks to UC Merced, this year’s Merced County Fair will also feature an interactive space for kids to learn.

UC Merced’s Mobile Maker Space is an innovative mobile science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) hub with hands-on activities and workshops geared toward students in kindergarten through high school. Attendees have an opportunity to experience the Mobile Maker Space at the fair’s Discovering Science exhibit before it launches to the public early next year.

Once it is on the road, the Mobile Maker Space — made possible through the generous support of Mike and Lori Gallo and the University of California, Merced, Foundation — will visit county fairs, schools and community events across the San Joaquin Valley, providing engaging ways for students to embrace science, technology, engineering and math.

“There are new ideas and concepts that are important for children to learn, especially in the STEM fields, and we wanted to ensure that students in the Valley have the opportunities to learn these critical skills,” Mike Gallo said.

“This will help better our workforce in the county and the Central Valley and prepare our children for the future,” Lori Gallo said.

The space’s activities include:

  • Scribble Bots — users harness the power of angular motion to create motorized robots that produce works of art;
  • Paper Circuits — users build electrical circuits out of paper and household materials to produce light;
  • Augmented Reality — users view molecules that make up everyday materials;
  • Drone Cage — users fly drones through obstacles and experience the growing field of unmanned-vehicle flight; and
  • Recycling Games — users work to recycle different kinds of materials to help keep the environment green and sustainable

The Mobile Maker Space will be joined in the Discovering Science exhibit by the Kids Discovery Station, which will become part of a future Children’s Museum in Merced. This is the second year the Merced County Fair has featured the Discovering Science exhibit. The exhibit is free with admission into the fair.

Alumna Wins Fulbright to Study Health Disparities of Indian Women

Akhila Yechuri is taking what she learned as an undergrad at UC Merced to India as the campus’s first undergrad alumna to earn a Fulbright scholarship.

Yechuri studied public health and graduated from UC Merced in August 2018, then went home to the Bay Area to work while she decided on her next move. Inspired by UC Merced graduate students Violet Barton and her daughter Danielle Bermudez — both Fulbright recipients — Yechuri applied for the scholarship last fall.

She leaves in August for nine months in her home country. She hasn’t been to India in nine years, though she still has family there, and will be able to see them while she’s working.

“I worked with my research connection at the Center for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at the University of Hyderabad to home in on my research question and design a project,” she said. “I’ll be studying health disparities among Hindu and Muslim women who live in slums in Hyderabad.”

Yechuri is interested in the health policies and social factors that disparately affect low-income women.

She credits her professors and mentors at UC Merced with giving her the foundation and preparation to do the work required for this scholarship experience. Yechuri must design the tools, including surveys and focus groups, she’ll use for her research, and hopes to get a minimum of 60 women to participate.

While she waits to leave for orientation in New Delhi, India, Yechuri will continue her work with the Oakland Unified School District, where she creates reading and literacy programming for students who are homeless and highly mobile. She’s also considering what she’ll do when she returns.

“I’m hoping to get a paper published after my study and help organize a conference where I can present my research. But I also want to create something tangible. It’s really important to me that I don’t just research the community and then leave, especially as an Indian woman who is part of the diaspora,” she said. “After that, I’m leaning toward law school because I’m very interested in issues at the intersection of human rights and health.”