Spider-Man helps students swing into future

By Augustine Ugalde

An inspiring keynote speech detailing the fusion of the art and technology behind the Spider-Man movies highlighted the Mixing Arts & Science event in S2 Recital Hall Thursday night.

The event was a collective effort to inspire the Latino community and to create awareness among students to strive for technical degrees and careers beyond East Los Angeles College.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program staged the event to highlight the convergence of engineering and artistic expression to ELAC students and to the surrounding community.

Keynote speaker and 2003 Best Achievement in Visual Effects, Academy Award winning visual artist Scott Stokdyk demonstrated the relationship between art and technology through his work on the popular movie franchise.

He emphasized the challenge he faced in creating one of Spider-Man’s arch-enemies, the Sandman, because of the nature of the main component – sand.

“Sand will never settle on a flat surface more than 30 degrees, so creating a creature composed entirely of sand has its artistic and technological challenges,” Stokdyk said.

Stokdyk’s resume includes popular films such as “OZ: The Great and Powerful,” “Contact, Starship Troopers,” “Stuart Little,” “Titanic,” “Terminator 2” and 1998’s “Godzilla.”

The program featured a documentary film, “Diversifying STEM Education,” about the dynamics of ELAC and a short novella, “Cultivando Raices,” (Cultivating Roots) depicting the typical challenges facing Latino youth today.

The documentary detailed ELAC’s predominately Latino demographic makeup and the statistical imbalance in jobs held by Latinos in STEM careers in the United States.

Speakers included former Los Angeles mayoral candidate, Emanuel Pleitez Monterey Park Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian, J.D., and ELAC President Marvin Martinez.

Pleitez, who also serves as L.A. Fire and Police Pensions Commissioner, and Chairman of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, introduced the documentary outlining the underrepresentation of Latinos in STEM disciplines.

“Latinos can be the future leaders of the United States in STEM careers,” Pleitez said, who grew up in the eastside community of El Sereno.

Latinos account for only 2 percent of people employed in STEM careers in the country – a fact the STEM office at ELAC wants to improve.

This is significant in light of a U.S. Department of Labor report that over the next 10 years, the country’s need for people with technical expertise is expected to grow by 50 percent.

The office chose to use the novela, produced by Novelas Educativas, that follows the lives of four Latino students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, to dramatize the challenges each faced before enrolling at ELAC into STEM programs.

This event is the second in a series of events planned by the Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics program that went into effect last semester.

STEAM was made possible by the 2011, Goals And Needs to Accelerate STEM grant that Project Director, Martha C. Pelayo, hopes will increase the number of ELAC students pursuing STEM careers.

“We wanted to bridge STEM and art in a creative and engaging manner to show there is STEM in all parts of life,” said Pelayo.

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