Engineering club inspires youth

By Augustine Ugalde

In an attempt to inspire Eastside youth into an engineering career in academics and beyond, the engineering club held the “Noche de Ciencias,” (Science Night) last Friday night in Ingalls Auditorium.

The event was designed to inform parents and students of the college enrollment and funding process.

More than 150 parents, students and community members joined with club volunteers and their sponsors in staging their version of the “Caine’s Arcade, Global Cardboard Challenge.”

The global challenge was inspired by 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who created a cardboard arcade game in his father’s auto shop in 2012.  Also, in a short film, Monroy challenged children around the world to do the same.

“We wanted to show students the fun side of engineering,” Engineering Club Faculty Adviser Brian Vazquez said.

The East Los Angeles College event was a collective effort by the engineering students of ELAC who envisioned, planned, organized and staged the event on their own.

“This is what’s so special about this event.  It is wonderful to see students organize a conference like this,” ELAC President Marvin Martinez said.

Club Interim President Candelaria Flores said she wants to make a difference in this community by leading by example, by working hard and being focused on her academic career, which is why she chose to be a part of this event.

The chemical engineering major, who wants to go to USC, grew up in a family of eight and wants to be a role-model for her younger siblings and for what she calls this underrepresented community.

“I love reaching out to the community.  I want to be a leader for the community and my family.  I want to show them that they can also succeed,” Flores said.

Mechanical engineering major and project leader Albert Venegas had a similar take on the reasons why he volunteered for the project.

“I want to give back to the community. Kids get exposed everyday to things why not something to better the community?” Venegas asked.

He also said that there was nothing like this when he was growing up and that he wanted to broaden the horizons for students of the community.

After the brief opening ceremony inside the auditorium, students were escorted to the foyer where they began working on their projects under student volunteer supervision.

Since students from K-12 participated, the stations were divided into three levels to accommodate students from all backgrounds, with the younger students on level 1 and the older students on level 3.

“We wanted to take students all the way through the engineering/design process,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez made this a fun event for the students with hand clapping, desk banging and chanting throughout the night.

“I wanted to show them that engineering was more than just math and physics,” Vazquez said.

This fact was not lost on Dean of Career and Technical Education Laureano Flores who stressed the importance of an engineering degree.

“When I came to this country, I knew no English, but I had my civil engineering degree.  That opened doors for me,” Laureano Flores said.

What impressed him most was that it was the engineering students at ELAC themselves who planned and organized the event on their own.

“Seeing the students advocate for the program is wonderful to see,” Laureano Flores said.

The parents benefitted from a bilingual presentation that was designed to inform them of the costs associated with earning a college education and what to look for when their kids are ready to make that move.

The presentation included detailed breakdowns of tuition fees, housing and book costs, along with information on the registration and enrollment process and available funding options.

Montebello resident, Angelo Martinez, brought his son Michael, who attends Macy Intermediate, to the event so he can see what engineers do.

“I want him to know how he can become successful and to be able to support himself,” Angelo Martinez said.

“I want him to have a good career and to be proud of what he does,” he said.

Martinez said he benefitted greatly from the parent portion of the event and that it’s very important for low income parents to know how to finance a college education.

The event was funded by the Associated Student Union and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics office, in partnership with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

The event featured a number of sponsors such as Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Army that were on hand on this night.

“We want to send a message to the parents that we are giving your kids an education, while our sponsors are here to say we’re going to hire you,” Marvin Martinez said.

Free T-shirts and other giveaways were provided for the students along with snacks, box lunches and a free raffle.

Vazquez said the point of the event was to have fun and to develop imagination in younger minds.

“I have selfish reasons for doing this.  It feels good to give back. The transfer of knowledge is really important and personal to me,” Vazquez said.

“Somebody helped me along the way and now it’s my turn to give back,” Vazquez said.

This was the third event at ELAC and by far the largest in participation, with the next scheduled event slated for the spring semester, according to Vazquez.

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