Valencia High School club works to spread knowledge of STEM

Valencia High School’s STEM Club performing community outreach at the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club. Courtesy of Valencia High School STEM Club

A club at Valencia High School is working to share its love of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with younger students and children throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Valencia High School STEM Club meets once a month to discuss STEM-related topics, learn about new technologies and research, listen to guest speakers and participate in community outreach at local elementary schools.

“We have around 10 officers but then the club extends to around 50 people,” said Cameron De La Torre, a Valencia High School senior and the STEM Club president.  “There are students of all grade levels.”

Four years ago the club began as an addition to the high school’s nanoscience class taught by Daniella Duran.  Students wanted to learn more about the STEM fields and use their knowledge to make others excited about STEM in the community.

“A lot of the things we do and learn are more interactive and more applicable to future application,” said De La Torre, who’s been a part of the club for three years.  “Being able to show young students these things they’ve never seen or heard of before is really great.”

During the past two years the STEM Club has a doubled in size, a success that Duran, the club’s adviser, attributes to the student leadership.

“The teamwork that this group has done together has really helped it grow,” she said.  “They’ve done a fanatic job.”

Community outreach

This schoolyear, the club visited students at Bridgeport Elementary School, Charles Helmers Elementary School and the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club.

Duran said the visits are designed to not only educate sixth grade students about nine scientific topics, but also to act as role models for those who are interested in STEM fields.

“We want to provide positive role models to sixth grade students so as they transition to junior high they get rid of that stigma of being a smart kid or wanting to learn about STEM,” Duran said.

During the visits, club members set up various stations for the sixth grade students to have hands-on scientific experiences.

“One station that I’ve worked a lot with is an energy station where we have UV sensitive feeds… and liquid crystals,” De La Torre said.

Another popular station is with “magic sand” that stays dry underwater.

“It’s a hydrophobic surface so it doesn’t get wet,” Duran said.  “They will scoop it up and are really excited.”

Students from the elementary schools and the Boys and Girls Club expressed their gratitude for the club’s visit with personal thank you notes and hugs.

“Especially this year we had a lot of kids come up to us and tell us thank you,” De La Torre said.  “A couple students said they want to be in STEM Club and learn more about nano.”

The community outreach also benefits the club’s members, who gain communication skills and develop their own areas of interest.

“From the last outreach I had one of the students say that the experience and made her want to go into teaching because she really enjoyed interacting with the kids and that changed what she wanted to do,” Duran said.

High school programs

Club members also work to bring in guest speakers from companies like Lockheed Martin and from schools like University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Every year Dr. Marco Curreli, the executive director and founder of Omi Nano, visits the club to discuss nanotechnology and its value in taking on the world’s future scientific challenges.

“Usually they come in and discuss their personal experience with STEM,” Duran said.  “They talk about how they got there, the dos and don’ts.”

Each year, one student from the club applies for a mentorship program where they are able to conduct field research on STEM subjects.

“It provides a lot of resources to learn more about research or topics relating to STEM,” Duran said.

Students also gain understanding of the field of nanoscience and how to apply science and engineering elements to solve problems in the world.

Universal lessons

According to Duran, about half of the students are interested in pursuing a career in a STEM field and half are just looking for information about new technologies and research.

“We talk about things that are so relevant that it’s just fun and interesting,” she said.

One thing the club leaders try to communicate is that the skills they learn are valuable, no matter what field students choose to go in to.

“That’s one of the things we try to communicate is that there are skills that you learn that are universal like communication and organization,” Duran said.

De La Torre himself is choosing to pursue a business degree, but appreciates the lessons he learned from being involved in the high school club.

“Going on the outreaches and the behind the scenes work was something I was really interested in and it really caught my attention and I wanted to stay on through,” he said.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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