Samueli School and Samueli Academy Formalize Cooperation

Anthony Saba and Gregory WashingtonMarch 6, 2017 - UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Samueli Academy, a four-year-old Santa Ana charter high school that aims to provide a transformational learning environment to the community’s underserved and foster teens.

The school and the academy share more than the support of their namesake, Broadcom Corp. Co-founder, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Henry Samueli. The Academy and UCI School of Engineering share a project-based approach to learning.

“UCI has helped us in a number of ways,” said Samueli Academy engineering teacher Nino Polizzi. The Samueli School has been working with the academy on project-based learning curricula and academic exchanges. “UCI students come on a regular basis after school to help our students with chemistry, engineering, math, and in particular, with SolidWorks in our CAD Lab. In addition, (Samueli School) Dean Gregory Washington has been instrumental in helping us set up our industry advisory board.”

Polizzi is a retired aerospace engineering executive who first met Washington when the former was running Rocket Science Tutors (RST). The all-volunteer nonprofit organization conducts an after-school program to improve STEM education by putting real-life engineers and scientists in Orange County classrooms. Washington’s two sons went through the program in their Irvine elementary school, and the engineering dean participated as a parent volunteer.

The MOU will take the relationship further by formalizing it and encouraging matriculation to UCI.

“I am ecstatic and grateful for the opportunity to do this and to be here,” said Washington. “It’s great to be involved with a school that goes beyond the talk in helping prepare kids to succeed. We already have our faculty, staff and students involved with moving this program forward. What we hope to do with this agreement is create an arrangement that will include Samueli Academy, Santa Ana College and UCI, helping these kids matriculate through all three institutions in a fraction of [the current] time. With this signing, the seeds are planted.”

Tho Gonzalez, a third-year UCI mechanical engineering student, spends every Monday morning at the Samueli Academy showing teachers and students how to use SolidWorks for that week’s assignment. “Students at Samueli Academy are very smart and respected. They not only pick up what I am showing them, they pick up my advanced technique, which cost me a lot of hours to figure out when I took the SolidWorks class. I treat them like my classmates.”

The two organizations signed the MOU at the Samueli Academy, aptly, during EWeek. In honor of the national celebration, the high school engineering class completed and demonstrated an engineering project challenge. A dozen teams comprising all grade levels built gravity-tiered irrigation systems using plastic cups, aluminum foil, Popsicle sticks and Scotch tape. Modeled on the 2,000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces, which allowed farmers to grow rice on the steep mountainsides in the Philippines, the project taught students the concepts of irrigation, gravity, buoyancy, density, friction and viscosity.

The class had many adult supporters cheering them on, including Henry and Susan Samueli, representatives from the Orangewood Foundation and the Samueli Academy’s industry advisory board, as well as several UCI Samueli School faculty, staff and students.

- Lori Brandt

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