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OC Science is a student-run, non-profit organization working to inspire and spread interest in science and engineering among youth in Orange County.

Events & Updates

OCSEF Youth Leadership Conference at Sage Hill High School

By Michelle Xu

The Orange County Science and Engineering Fair Board joined together with OC Science to host the OCSEF Youth Leadership Conference on Dec. 13th. The event was consisted of two parts: talks from prestigious speakers like USA IMO coach Po-Shen Loh and the Science and Engineering Research Bowl. Different students from different schools all across Orange County we invited to this event.

The event kicked off with a school roll call by emcee Neah Lekan, the Marketing and Publicity Lead Link of OC Science. After all the schools cheered in enthusiasm when their names were called, the first speaker, Mark Hobbs, was invited to the stage.

Mark Hobbs, the Director of Registration of OCSEF, gave a speech on science fairs. He went through all the steps of how to do a science project, and gave the students examples of what to do and what not to do.

After Mark Hobbs finished his presentation, a team of volunteers passed out paper and pencil tests for the preliminary round of the Science and Engineering Research Bowl to each middle school and high school team. Each school consisted of a team of five students, and the top four schools determined by the preliminary test would move on to the final round, which is structured like the Mathcounts Countdown Round.

As each team progressed through the challenging questions, there was no doubt that teammates bonded with each other. Due to the short amount of time allotted for the test, the teams resorted to splitting up the test. After the time was up, the proctors collected the tests, the participants nervously waited for the results, and the next speaker was invited up to the stage.

Modesto Llanos is the vice-president of the Orange County Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit organization. Llanos broadened the students’ views on the work engineers were doing around the world. For example, he talked about the sanitation systems in Mexico and the Honduras.

Professor Po-Shen Loh, the USA International Math Olympiad coach, talked about his journey through mathematics. He talked about how he became addicted to solving “impossible” problems, and how that was important in his career and success. His dedication brought him to become the coach of the USA Math Olympiad team, where he works with some of the brightest minds in the world. Not only do the students learn new knowledge from him, but he also learns a lot from the students.

When Professor Po-Shen Loh was finished with his presentation, Neah took the stage again to announce the much anticipated results of the preliminary Science and Engineering Research bowl competition. The middle schools that advanced were Rancho San Joaquin Middle School, Serrano Middle School, South Lake Middle School, and Fairmont Private School. The high schools that advanced were Beckman High School, Troy High School, Irvine High School, and Los Alamitos High School.

Neah and OC Science Education Lead Link Michelle Xu read the science questions out loud, and the first team who rang the bell would get a chance to answer. The rounds were best out of three, and in the end, Rancho San Joaquin MS won the middle school competition and Beckman HS won the high school competition.

No matter how well their teams did, all the participants gained new insights on the world of STEM. “The OCSEF conference was very informative, and I really enjoyed both the competitions and the speeches,” says Sara Du, a member of the Beckman team.

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Youth Leadership Conference on December 13th! Congratulations to the following winners:

JUNIOR DIVISION

Serrano Middle School

Fairmont Middle School Delegation I

Southlake Middle School Delegation I

Grand Prize Winner: Rancho San Joaquin Middle School

 

SENIOR DIVISION

Troy High School

Los Alamitos High School

Irvine High School

Grand Prize Winner: Arnold O. Beckman High School

STEAMworks Conference Wows Audiences

By Neah Lekan

Hundreds of people packed the Marcus D. Hurlbut Theatre at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School on Sunday, February 21st to view a unique and equally sensational production, STEAMworks 2016. The show was an unlikely mix of a student-run event and a packed theatre production that led to outstanding results. Audiences were treated to two acts packed with inspirational voices in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics or STEAM.

The production wove together diverse presentation topics into a coherent narrative about the power of STEAM in our society. The presenters and cast included Dr. David Reinkensmeyer, a UCI professor of Engineering and leader of groundbreaking research of rehabilitative medicine. His presentation included his research on allowing stroke victims to regain motor neuron usage. Next up were two students who pioneered a project at St. Margaret’s called limbART, Sahar Khashayar and Ashley Lee. Following them was dancer Michelle Kim, a Northwood High School sophomore celebrating the oft overlooked arts in the STEAM acronym. Youth Speaker Lia Tian, who followed Michelle, said that the event was “incredibly unique” after speaking about her journey through mathematics. Finally, Northwood High junior Thomas Bong performed his “Orbit Lightshow.”

Act Two was largely comprised of the performance of featured speaker and presenter, Dr. Arthur Benjamin, the world-renowned Mathemagician. An audience member remarked about his performance, “It wasn’t what I expected. I thought he was going to talk much more about difficult to understand math mechanics but I was on the edge of my seat for the whole hour. It was amazing!” The famous magician and professor was a sensational performer and the audience of over 300 thoroughly enjoyed his show.

Behind the scenes of both acts of this sensational production was Neah Lekan, a University High School sophomore, emcee, public speaker, and theatre student who worked behind the scenes to invite Dr. Benjamin and the rest of the cast in addition to working with the crew to bring the show to life. “I was inspired by TED Talks and the impact that meaningful yet manageable speeches can have on people,” Lekan said about his inspiration for the event. When asked about how the event was organized Lekan stated, “It was a lot of hard work from a lot of great people. The volunteers were fantastic and the crew worked with me to write stage directions, rehearse, and create an absolutely stunning production. The OC Science Board members helped promote the event and it thanks to their efforts that we had a great audience. One crew member stated that, “being on crew helped me experience theatre and STEAM in a whole new light. It was a very engaging experience.”

Neah Lekan summed up the event by saying, “Overall it was a two fold success. On the one hand we put on an incredible show which promoted STEAM and inspired the audience to go out and “shift innovation into high gear” in addition to having a dedicated crew setting, striking, and running the tech the entire, and on the other it allowed high school students like myself who normally would not have the experience to run a production like STEAMworks. We had an amazing time and I’ve learned tremendously from my crew, collaborators, and colleagues.

STEAMworks 2016 raised thousands for STEAM outreach efforts and inspired a new generation to walk out the house doors at the Hurlbut Theatre that afternoon and discover the world around them, break down barriers, reach for new horizons, and shift innovation into high gear.

Prasanthi Sathyaprakash Inspires Girls to Pursue STEM on International Women's Day

March 8, 2015

By Juwon Lee, University High School (Class of 2018)

On March 8, OC Science and OC Coder jointly hosted “Computer Science and Engineering for Girls” in celebration of International Women’s Day. The event was designed to promote STEM amongst young girls. The guest speaker was Mrs. Prasanthi Sathyaprakash, an inspiring woman who has been actively involved in STEM for the past 20 years. 

Many girls attended, showing great enthusiasm for STEM. They were eager to hear about Ms. Sathyaprakash’s journey in STEM, which started from a young age. As a child, Prasanthi lived in India with her family. During childhood, she loved playing with Legos that her grandmother brought from America. But when she asked her parents to buy her more Legos, her father sadly said, “Legos are not made in India.” Her parents could not get her Legos because India did not have engineers that made Legos. Ten years later, Prasanthi faced a similar problem. Her high school had the first computer in the whole town. Mesmerized by the computer, she begged her parents to buy her one too, but again, her dad answered, "Computers are not made in India; we don't have anyone that makes them." Fortunately, this was only a small obstacle for Ms. Sathyaprakash. She soon became inspired to study to be an engineer.

Ms. Sathyaprakash realized that she had to be the change she wished to see in the world. She decided that she had to be the one making things for India--things like Legos and computers. To fulfill her goal, she realized that she had to go to an engineering school. Although her community belittled her ambitious spirit and criticized her for being senseless, especially since she was a young woman, Prasanthi persisted. In her heart, she firmly knew that her efforts would not be wasted. Following her bachelor education in mechanical engineering, she decided to go to the United States to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to start her masters program in industrial engineering. 

Today, she is actively involved in STEM education through her work with Broadcom Foundation and its prestigious middle-school research competition, Broadcom MASTERS. She also serves on the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) Board of Directors as Co-President. She also travels to give many inspiring talks in order to promote STEM careers among today's youth. 

Following Mrs. Prasanthi’s powerful story, many girls confidently announced that they will pursue STEM in their careers. This event was very successful and was a wonderful way to commemorate International Women’s Day of 2015

 

Students and Science Come Together for the Elementary Science Olympiad Invitational

By Alexander Xu

On Saturday, April 25th, 2015, OC Science hosted the Elementary Science Olympiad at the OC Fairgrounds. The Elementary Science Olympiad invited students from grades 3 to 5 to participate in fun activities: building roller coasters and exploring states of matter, just to name a few. The event lasted from 9 in the morning to 1:30 in the afternoon, during which each student had the opportunity to participate in two of eight total stations. Hundreds of elementary school students and their parents attended the event, which was run by groups of volunteers. Volunteer captains ran each station, which ranged from Astronomy to Crime Busters to Large Number Estimation, from Build It to Building Prokaryotes, and much more!

The stations were creative, fun, and well-designed. The student volunteers in charge of the stations had spent many hours working on their individual events. Many of the volunteers were also extremely enthusiastic about their assigned station. One captain I spoke to said, with conviction, that her station “was by far the most fun station.” Other captains shared similar sentiments. 

One of the stations showcased creative ideas testing students’ senses. For example, the Sensory Challenge captain, Albert Wen, designed his station around the YouTube video Alarmageddon. His event tested students’ hearing and eyesight in a series of activities that revolved around optical and audio illusions, in order to demonstrate the importance of senses. Another station, Roller Coasters, was designed to teach students about physics and gravity, and tested how far students could launch a marble using a foam-tubing rollercoaster they built and designed at the Olympiad Invitational. A station that many students enjoyed was Solid Liquid Gas, where students observed changes in many of the states of matter. The captains, Amy Zhong and Michelle Jeon, showcased exciting demonstrations with dry ice, a substance that transforms from a solid straight into a gas. Each station was unique and offered students a great experience.

The students in attendance of the event were all extremely enthusiastic about the event as well. For some, the events at the Elementary Science Olympiad Invitational were a completely new experience: seeing dry ice and building their own roller coasters. For others, it was something they knew and loved, and they were experts at each station.

One student loved everything about the event. At the Sensory Challenge station, he experienced what he claimed to be one of the most exciting things at the whole event: one would attempt to follow the sound of a wooden handle being knocked against one of a series of buckets, and while blindfolded, try to throw a beanbag into that bucket.

Another student at the Solid Liquid Gas station said that his favorite thing, by far, was the dry ice, because “it was a solid and a gas at the same time!” The opportunity to work with chemical reactions (for example, mixing baking soda and vinegar) was also an exciting activity for the kids at that station as well.

Even the parents had a blast at the event. Many of the parents loved the front tables, where cool scientific activities were displayed for everyone to experiment with. They also loved the variety of stations there. One parent brought all three of her children to the event, one as a volunteer, and two as participants. She said that the event was “a great experience,” and that her children loved all the stations. Another parent said that all the exhibits were great ways to get children interested in science, and that the work being done was “very inspiring."

All in all, it’s safe to say that the event was a great success for parents, students, and OC Science volunteers.

 

Kevin Lee: Presentation and Q&A

January 11, 2015

By Soumya Ravichandra of OC Scholar

On Sunday, January 11, OC Science had their first Science Talk of the year. After a brief introduction about the goals and prospects of OC Science, they introduced guest speaker Kevin Lee. In addition to being a freshman at Harvard, Kevin was the 2nd place winner of the INTEL Science Talent Search Competition and won $75,000 for college scholarships. Eager to hear about Kevin’s experience and his passion for science, the room was filled with enthusiastic students anxious to learn about his journey to Harvard and beyond.

Kevin graduated from University High School in 2014. His zeal for science began in 6th grade when the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates fascinated him. He became an active and stellar member of his Science Olympiad team in middle school. Upon reaching high school, he found classes to be monotonous and yearned for a challenge. The news that a Michigan High School Basketball Star unexpectedly died after making the winning shot in his game caught his attention. It sparked his curiosity and he was inquisitive in finding out what could have caused this unfortunate tragedy. After researching on the Internet, Kevin found that due to overuse of the heart muscles or certain birth defects, the heart can get thicker, and can grow irregularly. As these do not show up in doctor results, they cannot be curbed at an early stage. Kevin found a diagram on the Internet that measured the electrical activity in the heart. Unfortunately, this diagram did not account for the motion of the heartbeat, and as a result was inaccurate. Kevin met with numerous UCI professors, and took a Differential Equation Class at UCI in addition to balancing his schoolwork. He changed this diagram into x,y, and z axis using linear components. Furthermore, he found vectors for recharging and found particular angles in which he could determine whether the heart was healthy or not. He created a mathematical model of the heart and submitted it to the local science fair. His model helps in the treatment of arrhythmia and other heart conditions.

After winning at the county and state fair, he went to Washington D.C. where he met the president and won second place for his outstanding achievements. He also went to London where he conducted further scientific research. Recently, Kevin won an exclusive trip to Italy where he worked on understanding bacteria in the gut.

Throughout the seminar, Kevin had an open-minded outlook on his life and his achievements. At Harvard, he finds his peers to be ambitious, and believes they constantly challenge him to do better. To the younger students in the audience, Kevin told them, “Life is exciting if you approach it the right way. Somewhere out there, there is something incredible waiting to be known.” In general, the event was a huge success. Everyone learned a lot from him; his determination, perseverance, and dedication. He was a great inspiration, and he made all the students want to work hard and win the INTEL Science Fair too!

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