Symposium spotlights STEM projects

By Luis Cortes, Advocate Staff

Students who are enrolled in Engineering 298 will have the chance to show off their projects in the third annual Student Research Symposium on May 9 in Fireside Hall from 5-9 p.m.

The event is open to everyone and has been broken down into three activity periods. The first period is a networking session from 5-7 p.m., where participating students and attendees have the chance to talk to former participants, scholars and community organizers.

Light refreshments will also be available for those in attendance.

The second period is an hour-long oral presentation from 7-8 p.m., where participating students will have the chance to explain what it is they have actually built.

The final activity period is the poster presentation from 8-9 p.m. where students have the opportunity to show the results they uncovered with their projects.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) student Coordinator Manal Ayyad said 20 students will be participating and there will be several STEM faculty who attend the symposiums.

The projects range from a solar boat to an electric skateboard, Ayyad said.

“We want people and community organizations around San Pablo to come,” Ayyad said.

The symposium is free to everyone, not just STEM students, she said.

Ayyad believes the more people attend, the better understanding they get about Contra Costa College STEM.

Also, it’s a step closer to uniting the community through STEM.

She said former students, who participated in the symposium have transferred to four-year colleges, will also attend.

Ayyad said all the projects are produced solely by students, but they do have professors designated to oversee the projects.

One of the advisers in charge of overseeing a project is Dr. Chao Liu.

Liu said the designated professor has to help the students while giving them design ideas and modifying the products they create.

Students from the Engineering 298 class do most of the work themselves, Liu said, but he guides them suggesting things they may need such as adjustments in the design.

“We give them ideas to see if they are interested,” Liu said.

That is one of their duties if students don’t have an idea of what to build.

Nyalah Payne, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, is the leader of the Stardust Crusader, a team that built a solar-powered boat named the Milky Way.

It is comprised of polyethylene foam (a strong, resilient closed-cell foam with excellent buoyancy) and PVC pipes.

“We chose these materials because they are unique. It’s very rare for a person to come across a boat like ours,” Payne said.

Payne said STEM competitions help students learn how to execute the engineering design process and improve teamwork, organization, time management and other skills.

On May 4, Payne will be competing with her solar-powered boat at the Solar Regatta in Herald, California, south of Elk Grove.

Liu said some of the projects students are working on include rockets, a solar-powered suitcase and electric skateboard.

The professor also said the symposium is a great event because it gives his students the confidence to believe they have the capability to be an engineer.

“The research symposium is a great opportunity for students to show what they can do and that they are capable of presenting professional work,” Liu said.