The Valencia High School Stem Conference welcomed all eager, prospective college students throughout the William S. Hart Union High School District on Saturday with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
Coming up with the idea in April, and organizing every logistical detail for five months, Valencia High School senior Abiela Sarrieddine, 17, witnessed her vision come to life. In the Valencia gym, students throughout the Hart district were presented with a schedule that entailed guest speakers, demonstrations and interaction with contest submissions and clubs.
The clubs available included Valencia STEM Club, Valencia Medventures, Valencia Medical Science Academy, Valencia Operation Smile, Valencia Red Cross, Valencia Women Medical Empowerment, Valencia Science Olympiad and Castaic Childhood Cancer Research and Awareness.
With five submissions entered for the contest following the prompt, “curating an innovation that will benefit our society,” the students were judged by the three Valencia High School teachers: Breeze Aguilar placed in first, Nathaniel Cervantes placed in second and Joshua Kim and Chloe Na were placed in third.
West Coast Customs sponsored the prizes: first place received two VIP tour tickets and merchandise, second place received one VIP tour ticket and merch and third place received a car cleaning kit. There were also two honorable mentions.
“Right now, everyone’s looking around and looking at all the clubs and their demonstrations. We also have the students from the competition that submitted projects; they are displaying their projects right now,” Sarrieddine said. “As we move along through the conference, we have two more guest speakers: One being a computer science and business administration student from USC, talking about crypto and blockchain. Following directly after that we have another guest speaker, Stephen Lawrence, who is a retired FBI special agent.”
Also speaking was Sara Bilow from Boston Scientific, who discussed bioengineering and spinal injuries and how one can try to prevent and recover from such injuries.
Just as Sarrieddine was inspired by a neuro tech conference at UCLA to create her own conference for Hart district students, she invited the same group to attend the conference they inspired — a full circle.
“We also have CruX UCLA, a neuro tech organization, where they talked about UCLA, their experiences, as well as what they do for their club, what they plan to do in the future and a little bit about the club in case people who go to UCLA want to join it,” Sarrieddine said. “The reason why I started the conference was inspired by them. I went to their conference, and now they’re here at mine.”
Sarrieddine’s advice for other students who would want to pursue similar endeavors is to take the leap, even if there are uncertainties.
“I just want people to know that if you see something, whether it’s on Instagram or at school, take part in those opportunities, because I had no expectations. When I went to the neuro tech conference, I wasn’t sure what I was going to expect, but I went anyway and it turned into having this conference today.”
If Sarrieddine hadn’t gone to the conference, she wouldn’t have experienced and learned in the process of assembling the first STEM conference in the Hart district.
“The best part about doing this is seeing it all come together. The hardest part was definitely coordinating with the guest speakers who come from completely different places and promoting the event,” Sarrieddine said. “I’m really happy that the guest speakers were able to show up and give their presentations, as well as the students, parents and teachers who also showed up.”
One of the students who submitted a project for the conference was Valencia junior Elbert Zeng, 16, who along with his father, Herbert, tested the blood alcohol concentration in the body by eating different meals.
“My project was on how different meals could affect the blood alcohol concentration in the body. We hypothesized that an egg meal would do better than a chicken meal. We compared those two and used certain devices — my dad was the subject of that,” Zeng said. “As a result we found out that an egg meal was better than a chicken meal at lowering it.”
The experimentation of different meals took place over two weeks, and the printed display at the conference showcased the purpose and hypothesis, methods, results and analysis.
“It took a good few weeks ago for my dad to do all the tests properly. My dad would eat an egg meal two hours before [testing] and drank alcohol two hours after that,” Zeng said.
In the process, Zeng learned not only about the effects of alcohol, but also the effect of the meals themselves.
“I knew that alcohol had a lot of bad effects on people, but I also heard of some people who had used it for things like health issues that would actually help them,” Zeng said. “I also wasn’t shocked by the fact that there’s differences between being drunk and not being drunk in terms of BAC levels. So, all these ideas came together and inspired me to learn more — I thought that was cool.”
Valencia seniors Aarya Shah, 17, along with Ava Boyer, 17, and Mariano Alberto, 17, greeted students during the conference, offering the first 15 students who came to their booth a free boba drink from Teaspoon.
“Our club is Operation Smile, which is a part of a worldwide organization dedicated to raising money and helping educate people about babies with cleft lips and palates,” Shah said. “Cleft lips and palates are genetic abnormalities, where during birth, the roof of the mouth does not form properly and can really affect the baby’s eating and breathing.”
The club has been successful in raising funds, and a few surgeries have been paid for at the price of $240 each.
“Our club is dedicated to raising money so that these babies and children can live a normal and healthy life. We’ve had a lot of success so far; we raised surgeries for three or four children and we’re planning on raising a lot more,” Shah said.