St. Margaret’s High School Students Present Summer Engineering Projects

St. Margaret's High School studentsSept. 11, 2015 - While most teenagers enjoyed their summer vacationing with family, hanging out with friends or relaxing at the beach, six studious high schoolers from St. Margaret’s Episcopal School spent six weeks of their break immersed in engineering research at UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering.

Now in its 11th year, the St. Margaret’s-Samueli School internship program matches high-potential students with a faculty member and research area based on their interests. Spearheaded by Engineering Leadership Council member Stacey Nicholas, the program aims to inspire enthusiasm for STEM fields with the hope that the high school students will pursue these areas as they move forward in their education and careers. Along with university-level engineering research experience, the students also receive university credit to add to their college applications.

The internship program accepts five to 10 students each summer. Over the years, admission – based on students’ GPAs and academic merits – has become increasingly competitive. This year’s group included two girls and four boys, all juniors.

Parents, teachers, graduate student mentors and professors gathered last week for the students’ final project presentations in the Colloquia Room at UCI.

“We are here today to celebrate the work these students have accomplished,” said Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington. “It was a non-trivial endeavor, the first time for many in a lab setting.  I’m glad their first experience was here at UCI.”

St. Margaret’s student Grant Russell worked with Professor David Reinkensmeyer on “Rehabilitation Using Virtual Reality Systems,” a project aimed at helping patients recover from a stroke. “It’s been very enlightening,” said Russell. “The augmented reality/virtual reality environments will continue to evolve, and I’m glad Professor Reinkensmeyer gave me the opportunity to get involved in something that is gaining more relevance in technology.”

Under the guidance of Professor Donald Dabdub, Kendall Robison spent the summer trying to generate computer code to simulate a fractal called a Sierpinski triangle. “This internship really allowed me to solve things on my own instead of relying on other people’s work,” she said. “First time I ran the experiment, I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be. But Professor Dabdub said, ‘Keep going, don’t give up.’”

Matene Alikhani worked with chemical engineering and materials science Professor Ali Mohraz on a project to create sets of silica particles that successfully formed a new type of soft material called bijels.

Collin Rogers developed a plasmid DNA insert in the lab of biomedical engineering Professor Jered Haun.

McKinley McQuaide worked with biomedical engineer Gregory Brewer to analyze the direction of neuron signaling in a live brain cell network. Her project’s aim was to better understand coding in the part of the brain involved in learning and memory.

Gabriel Ong designed and improved a fitness testing device for children in Reinkensmeyer’s lab. “In the end, I helped build a better bike,” he said about his project.

“The amount of amazing research going on at the Samueli School of Engineering is mind-blowing,” said Jennifer Ross-Viola, St. Margaret’s program coordinator. “Our students have so many fascinating options to choose from, and the school of engineering does a good job of matching our students with faculty mentors based on their interests.”

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