Vikings explore nanoscience with Lockheed Martin, Advanced Bionics

Valencia's Ryan Jones presents his Sodium Alginate Hydrogel project at the Nanosciencefair. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
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The scientific scholars of Valencia High School had a chance to demonstrate all that they’ve learned this year at their sixth annual STEM Fair, a competition where students use the basic concepts of nanoscience to address and solve real-world problems.

Mentors from Lockheed Martin helped students put the finishing touches on their presentations before guest judges from Advanced Bionics and the other companies with an emphasis in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields judged the competition’s entries.

The competition has evolved a lot in its six years, teacher and advisor Daniella Duran said. UCLA has always been involved in the program, but Lockheed Martin and other engineering firms have began to increase their presence in the last few years.

“It’s an important part of the event to have authentic evaluation by scientist and engineers,” Duran said, “because it is supposed to be a college level project where students get to research any area in nanoscience.”

Students in Duran’s honors nanoscience course had the opportunity to pick any topic that they found interesting for their final presentation, but it had to have real world applications.

“It’s not just about science, technology or engineering,” Duran said. “It’s about how those can be used to actually help the world around us.”

Duran has had many students blaze a path in a science and engineering-related field, but she was quick to note that she also has students who go into other areas of study.

“Even though, it is housed as a science or STEM course, the skills that the students develop intersect all disciplines,” the adviser shared. “Students have to problem solve. They have to organize. They have to communicate.”

Any student at the school is welcome to join the Stem Club, but the event on Friday was specific to the nanoscience class since the presentations were part of the students’ final exams.

“Its similar to an AP class in that its a college-level class,” Duran said. “What really prompted me was that traditional science classes don’t connect to the real world in a way that students get excited about.”

Duran shared that she feels more classes should look at how students learn.

“It’s really about looking at our students and having them think,” Duran said, “about how they can help the world around us.”

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