Students Bring Joy of STEM to Ecuador

College students Deliver Pleasure of STEM to Ecuador

Director Dan Jensen helps college students assemble the “helidisk” undertaking (photograph by Brad Elliott)

Westmont engineering college students returned to Quito, Ecuador, in Might to share their love of science, expertise, engineering, and math with kids in an after-school program. The seven engineering college students – Jonny Reitinger, Jonah Swanson, Jacob Bailey, Maria Judy, Elijah Cicileo, Becca Hudson, and Tasha Loh – designed and constructed STEM instructional supplies to share with the youngsters. They have been joined by Dan Jensen, director of Westmont engineering, and a Compassion Worldwide consultant.

The tutorial kits consisted of small, hands-on units that the youngsters assembled after which operated. One equipment emphasised understanding of vitality produced from photo voltaic cells, a hand-crank generator, and a lithium battery. The vitality was used to launch a “helidisk.” The opposite equipment allowed the Ecuadorian kids to write down a pc program for a controller that ran a small, remote-control automotive that the youngsters assembled. They then used their controller and RC automotive to race by means of a timed course whereas knocking over small bowling pins. 

Westmont, different faculties, and Compassion Worldwide shaped Christian Collective for Social Innovation, a partnership that operates the after-school program, Academia Matices. That is the second yr that Westmont college students have participated in this system. 

A Stellar Profession in Physics

Michael Sommermann studied theoretical nuclear physics in graduate faculty, incomes a grasp’s diploma and doctorate on the State College of New York at Albany. He accomplished post-doctoral work on the Max Planck Institute in Germany and on the College of Illinois Urbana-Champaign earlier than becoming a member of the Westmont physics college in 1985. At first, he traveled weekly to Pasadena to conduct analysis with colleagues at Caltech. Then he started to broaden his pursuits to incorporate astronomy and computational physics, establishing robust applications in each areas. He retired this spring after 38 years at Westmont.

Together with different professors employed within the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties, Sommermann helped the school develop excellent science departments. He obtained three analysis grants from the Nationwide Science Basis (NSF) targeted on the dynamics of skyrmion interactions and collisions.

Jonah Swanson encourages a pupil driving by means of the racecourse (photograph by Brad Elliott)

When the late George Bate retired from the physics division, Sommermann took on the astronomy class. He acquired one other NSF grant for an astronomy workshop on the College of Colorado in 1993 and acquired a Westmont College Analysis Award that yr.

“Astronomy is a improbable class for the liberal arts,” Sommermann says. He started working with Westmont’s previous telescope, which George Carroll, an engineer at Lockheed and novice astronomer, constructed for the school in 1957. “I assumed it might be nice to get a brand new state-of-the-art telescope, and we requested Colorado-based DFM Engineering to construct one for us. The physics college labored collectively on a grant, and the W. M. Keck Basis awarded the school $300,000 for the brand new telescope. The James L. Stamps Basis and different donors additionally contributed.” Westmont put in the 24-inch reflector Keck Telescope, an F/8 Cassegrain instrument with Ritchey-Chrétien optics, in 2007 and moved it to the brand new observatory in 2009.

“As soon as the telescope arrived, I used to be wanting to work with it,” Sommermann says. “I tracked asteroids, imaged supernovae and variable stars, and measured the light-curves of exoplanets, because the telescope has the aptitude to detect these objects. Capturing the Andromeda Galaxy was a very rewarding expertise.” He additionally performed observational astronomy analysis with college students through the summer time.

For a few years, Sommermann taught astronomy and an occasional course in regards to the connection between astronomy and Christian religion. Now astrophysicist Jennifer Ito, who started as assistant professor of physics at Westmont final fall, teaches these lessons. Sommermann additionally led the month-to-month viewings on the observatory till Professor Emeritus Ken Kihlstrom and teacher Thomas Whittemore took on this obligation.

Then the physics division thought-about strengthen its program. “As an outgrowth of our program’s exterior evaluate, wonderful physicists advisable that we add computational physics, so we did,” Sommermann says. “Working with highly effective computer systems has develop into important in lots of areas of physics. Due to my background in theoretical physics, I used to be charged with creating a course on this vital topic.”

Sommermann and the Keck Telescope

Years earlier, in 1985, Sommermann secured the school’s first connection to the web, then a part of the Protection Superior Analysis Initiatives Company (DARPA). “I made a cope with Westmont,” he says. “They gave me cash to maneuver, and I requested to make use of it to purchase this new gadget known as a private pc – it turned out to be the primary PC on campus. To collaborate with colleagues at Caltech, a devoted copper line was put in from my workplace, which ran down Chilly Spring Street to UC Santa Barbara to hook up with DARPA’s community. It was ridiculously sluggish.”

Till Westmont launched its new engineering program, Sommermann and different physics professors taught college students majoring in engineering physics. “Now fewer and fewer college students see a must switch and full their coaching elsewhere,” he says. “They are saying they’d a lot reasonably end at Westmont and go to graduate faculty. We put together college students to step out into the skilled world with good job prospects.”

Sommermann has loved creating his lessons and dealing with college students. He says that educating computational physics has been notably rewarding. “On the finish of considered one of these lessons, a pupil got here as much as me and mentioned, ‘Now I do know what I actually wish to do.’ To see a pupil get so excited a few topic and discover a profession is gratifying.”

In retirement, Sommermann says he’ll keep in Santa Barbara, a location his three kids and 5 grandchildren take pleasure in visiting. He plans to dabble within the orchard and backyard behind his dwelling. Since he grew up in Germany, he’ll additionally spend extra time there reconnecting with household and buddies. And he hopes to contribute one thing at Westmont by educating an occasional course, maybe in computational physics, and dealing on the observatory.

“Westmont has been an exquisite place for me and my household,” he says. “My spouse, Emily, has been an adjunct music professor educating violin. I’m grateful and grateful to God for our time right here.”  

Author: ZeroToHero

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