USC Viterbi’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and Amazon have once again joined forces to deliver Stimulating STEM, an all-inclusive summer program for underrepresented high school students. The program is “designed to stimulate an interest in STEM among students from marginalized communities who have been historically underrepresented in the industry.”
Thanks to a grant provided by Amazon, the 4-week program comes at no cost to the participants, easing financial barriers to access.
The program first ran last year, where a group of 15 students was exposed to robotics, coding, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, quantum computing, and space engineering by world-renowned ISI faculty. They frequently visited ISI’s Marina Del Rey headquarters and had the opportunity to engage with innovative technology – such as a space laser – housed there. The students were also able to get a taste of college life by living in USC dorms and eating at dining halls for the duration of the program.
“I was very pleased with the program and staff,” noted Shenell Glover, the mother of Marcus, one of last year’s program participants. “This program was well organized and offered participants the opportunity to explore various STEM focuses and life on campus.” Glover also noted that following the program, “Marcus is very excited to start his career in STEM and hopefully attend USC.”
The program provides a rare, hands-on engagement with cutting-edge technology, allowing students to see the inner workings of a career in STEM. Last summer, students were able to take a workshop with Mayank Kejriwal, Research Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and ISI Research Lead, where they encountered networks for the first time by playing a “network game.” The students had to figure out how to send messages across a network, and the two winners walked away with Kejriwal’s own book on Knowledge Graphs to deepen their understanding.
Last year’s cohort was also able to learn from faculty like David Barnhart, Director and Co-founder of USC’s Space Engineering Research Center, at ISI’s space division. There, students interacted with the “hockey table” – a surface used to simulate the zero-gravity environment of space – and maneuvered the machine gliding on top of the table by themselves.
The ability to interact with tangible objects to understand abstract concepts is particularly instrumental for making STEM accessible. “[At first] I wanted to do civil engineering,” noted 17-year-old Linette, one of the program’s participants, while watching the hockey table demonstration, “but now I think I want to do aerospace engineering.”
Jamani King, Stimulating STEM Program Manager and ISI’s DEI Program Specialist, echoed the benefits that students reaped from Stimulating STEM’s 2022 run. Namely, “the different career paths within the STEM industry, learning what to expect and how to maneuver in the STEM industry as an underrepresented minority, and lastly, living on a college campus for 4-weeks.”
This year, however, the program is expanding even further. “One change we’ll be implementing is adding a mentoring and empowerment aspect to the program,” King explained. “We will be collaborating with Honey Bunz (HBZ) and Male Success Alliance (MSA) to provide mentorship to our participants.”
This year’s Stimulating STEM program will take place from June 26th to July 21st, 2023, and is open to rising juniors, seniors, and recent high school graduates in the inner cities of Los Angeles County. Applications close May 19th, 2023, 11:59PM PST, and applicants will be notified the week of May 29th, 2023.
Published on April 10th, 2023
Last updated on April 18th, 2023