I have chosen to pursue service to America as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), quite simply, to foster confidence in the decades to come. In our particular place in history, it is vital that we hold on to optimism for the good of the future, rather than becoming stuck in a headspace of cynicism and confusion.
I want to empower communities to have that same confidence in their own future, and to encourage their members to be creative, to problem solve, and collaborate with one another. It is my hope that the STEM Ecosystems continue to ensure that what is done now for learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be built upon later for the good of communities.
My VISTA position entails connecting with partners inside and outside the OC STEM Ecosystem to take the UC Irvine Mobile Rocket and Fab Lab (MRFL) out into the community. In addition to logistics and administration, I am responsible for communicating via Twitter, Instagram, and our newly-launched webpage. Via digital media we share our action points along with our aspirations, demonstrating the initiatives currently at work along with a broader vision for the communities we serve.
I find during our community events, there is sometimes an expression of uncertainty when discussing manufacturing technology, especially with older learners. In conversations about automation, many feel that jobs will be lost as result of advancements in such technologies. So the broader theme we address is the problem of income insecurity in the country. The OC STEM Initiative exists to empower communities, learners of all ages, to take their future into their own hands — creating the future through STEM. We help people understand…
When I first encountered the Mobile Rocket and Fab Lab (MRFL) it happened to be my first day of service. To come across advanced technology that I had no notable prior knowledge of on-board a 40-foot airstream was somewhat daunting. So when I was asked to staff the event that was to take place later that day it took some technical pep-talk from my colleagues in order for me to feel more comfortable. I can’t tell you how many times I tripped over my words attempting to explain the practicality of the Apollo-Soyuz Simulation (a program we run on our Raspberry Pi3 station). But I learned the details, just as anyone can.
Equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter, and two Raspberry Pi3 stations, the Mobile Rocket and Fab Lab helps us raise awareness of open-ended and experiential STEM learning. In this versatile space, learners are encouraged to interact with one another in addition to experiencing STEM equipment. Fortunately, the MRFL is mobile, allowing us to bring equipment and technical staff from the University of California, Irvine, right into the community. By itself the MRFL is definitely a sight to behold, yet I believe that the MRFL’s greatest asset is its staff, which fields questions from learners and shows them the possibilities it yields. Without this technical team, the lab would stand a mere exhibit.
I am proud of my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA. As I work with our OC STEM team to educate the public through digital media and personal interaction aboard the MRFL, I believe that we are helping people better understand the technologies of today and tomorrow, and we are building greater confidence in our future.