More than 100 fifth-grade students from Westlake Elementary School toured science and engineering labs at UC Santa Cruz last month. Organized by Holger Schmidt, Narinder Kapany Chair of Optoelectronics and professor of electrical engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering, the tours were designed to engage young students in the local community and help introduce them to modern scientific concepts and technologies.
“We wanted to introduce the students to state-of-the art methods and equipment that are being used to push science and technology in a wide range of fields,” said Schmidt.
During the visits, students learned about electron microscopy and saw a demonstration of the technology on everyday objects such as glitter, ink and cloth.The students also toured the Nanoscale Functional Materials Labs, directed by Shaowei Chen of the chemistry department, and biology professor Yi Zuo’s neural imaging lab, which explores how neurons are rewired during learning and memory formation.
In response to the experience, Westlake parent and Director of the Institute for Humanities Research Irena Polic said, "The kids had a blast! We are so fortunate to have a world-renowned university at our doorstep that is dedicated to research and teaching, and whose faculty and staff care deeply about engaging with the community.”
Westlake teacher James Smith agrees. “The Westlake visit to UCSC was awesome. The students had the unique opportunity to see science in action and hear about how this science was being applied in the real world. The kids returned feeling inspired about how their schooling today could potentially lead to opportunities in higher education tomorrow.”
The tours were part of the efforts to ensure broad impact on grants from the National Science Foundation awarded to Schmidt.