STEM Night


Inaya Yusuf

This year’s STEM Night was an outstanding success thanks to the several clubs that showcased their missions through engaging activities and the three speakers that gave inspiring and informative talks about their careers. 

The Neuroscience Club added to the fun by making color-coded brain hats for students to wear and later on, dissecting a brain. Onlookers were intrigued by the learning experience. Right behind them was the Engineering Club, which taught their participants how to construct a remarkable hand that could pick up objects. To their left was the Dream to STEAM Club, which had a fascinating display of dry ice. Jessica Q. (president of the club) and other members of Dream to STEAM also demonstrated the science behind the pendulum by using pendulums to paint two canvases. In the future, the non-profit club hopes to hold a Maker Fair to continue educating younger children about science. The Synthetic Biology Club performed a DNA extraction on strawberries, which was a messy but complex task. The Chemistry & Biology Club appealed to the competitive edge of visitors by hosting a Kahoot game. Athena Robotics attracted a crowd as they showcased their several awards and three of their robots, one of which was driven on the floor, performing sharp turns and spins.   

The first speaker was Praveen Raja: a health innovator, successful entrepreneur, and psychologist. After exploring multiple fields in UC Irvine and UCLA, he decided to focus on the connection between the mind and body. Besides his previous job at PATH, Raja stated that his set of skills allowed him to be a contributing member of the Gates Foundation in Africa. He explained that technology allowed many inexperienced workers to provide the detailed care that the patients needed (e.g. administration of vaccinations). Other projects he has worked on include the development of an artificial pancreas, digital drugs, and the founding of a school in rural India. To students and young innovators, Raja states that the most important thing for them to focus on is on getting a broad education and allowing their personal motivation to guide the finding of a starting point for one’s passion. 

Next up on the stage was Hayley Iben, a senior lead software engineer at Pixar Animation Studios. After earning a degree in Computer Science and doing several internships, she decided to focus on electronic arts. After earning a PhD in Computer Graphics from UC Berkeley, Iben interned and eventually began to work at Pixar, where she has been for fourteen years. Additionally, she gave the audience an extensive explanation of what goes on behind the scenes at Pixar, including the usage of math and physics. Her specific area of work as a software engineer is to design computer programs to solve problems with character simulations. Iben develops simulations that make movement appear smoother, including the motion of hair, cloth, flesh, and water. One example she showed the audience was that of hair simulations, which use the mass spring system. Pairing the complex explanations of the mechanisms with examples of the simulations on well known characters made the presentation all the more engaging for the audience. Iben’s advice for students is to try a variety of things before deciding on a career path. 

     The last speaker at this year’s STEM Night was Derek Chan, a Life Science Research professional that specializes in genetics at Stanford University. As a Biology minor, he focuses on numerous different issues in the modern day, including understanding colon cancer through genetics and single cell technology. Chan explained that there are three types of research experiences: wet lab, clinical based (which he did to study Appendicitis), and interdisciplinary (where he observed common pedagogy practices). As a biology and education enthusiast, he also enjoys teaching younger students. He explained that what worked most for finding his career was making plans for college ahead of time and focusing on interest, work ethics, and developing relationships versus experience and expertise, which come later over time. On a last positive note, Chan reminded the audience to expect obstacles because behind success is persistence and dedication.      

This year’s theme of “technology of tomorrow” was certainly implemented through the various displays from the participating clubs and the words of the three speakers. Thanks to the dedication of the speakers and participating clubs (especially the Biomedical Engineering Club as the organizer), STEM Night was exceptionally successful and enjoyable for all who attended.