The students gather around the professor, who stands in the center of the room next to a pair of theater lights, directing their gaze to the ceiling.
This is a bit of a tough request because SJ KimAssociate Professor at UNLV Entertainment Engineering and Design (EED) program, raise the lever to reveal a beautiful and bright multi-color combination of red, green and blue.
“If I slide all these levers up, I can turn on all the colors,” he told a group of middle school students in Las Vegas. “Mixing all three of these primary colors together makes white. That’s science!”
Demonstrations and afternoon tours of UNLV’s unique EED projects and labs, plus behind-the-scenes stops at the Bellagio Fountain, Roller Coaster and Urban Resort, are part of the new UNLV Howard R. Hughes School of Engineering summer camp – Vegas STEM Lab — designed to introduce and inspire students to explore the real magic behind the glitz and glamour: Engineering.
“We’re engaging young students who have absolutely no idea what STEM is, showing them that engineering is everywhere and everything is powered by scientific and engineering thinking,” said Emma Regentovacamp director and professor Electrical and Computer Engineering at UNLV. “We’re trying to show them that engineering isn’t boring. We’re just another side of the art they see being created and displayed in the Gaza Strip.”
After first visiting several Las Vegas highlights during the first week, students spent the next two weeks learning about programming, microcontrollers, sensors and motors, embedded systems design, and hands-on activities at UNLV, including Build their own small engineering projects.
As the middle school students gathered around Kim and the stage lights, he introduced them to the concept of DMX, or digital multiplexing.
“Suppose a large theater has over 10,000 lights. Do you know how we can control that many lights?” he asked the students.
Several students gave answers, but one gave the correct answer: programming.
“Yes! That’s what I’m going to talk about today,” King told the fascinated middle school students. “We could employ 10,000 different people, each operating each light, or we could control the lights efficiently and effectively through digital programming.”
Liv Westmoreland, one of UNLV’s student mentors and a double major in EED and mechanical engineering, said bootcamps like this one help students visualize who an engineer is and the myriad career opportunities available to them.
“I think a lot of people don’t really understand what an engineer is,” Westmoreland said. “We’re showing them what you can do, and here are the different areas you can explore. Today, they’re looking at motion sensors, and I’m sure a lot of them don’t realize that this technology is engineered.”
During the three-year program, approximately 120 native Las Vegas students will see a side of the city they’ve never experienced. UNLV works with the Clark County School District to ensure that participants reflect the demographic makeup of the Las Vegas community in terms of race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender.
For 14-year-old high school student Sopheah Rodgriuez, the Vegas STEM Lab was her second UNLV School of Engineering summer camp. Her first time at UNLV Engaging girls in ubiquitous intelligence and computing 2021 (GUIC) Summer Camp.
“Originally, I always wanted to do acting and theater,” she said. “But these camps allowed me to see different career paths, and seeing the options that were right for me allowed me to see what I could do and what I might want to do.”
About Vegas STEM Lab
The Vegas STEM Lab is one of several summer camps offered by the College of Engineering in 2023. The camp, offered free to students, is the second year of a three-year program funded by the National Science Foundation. Advancing Informal STEM Learning Programs Help local middle school students overcome the common perception that STEM subjects are boring and difficult.
by Emma Regentova, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Venkatesan Mukukumar; SJ Kim, associate professor of entertainment engineering and design; and professor of educational psychology Jonathan Hilbertpurposefully design activities to foster STEM identity development and encourage students to pursue STEM pathways.
All engineering-focused student projects, including other opportunities on the UNLV campus, are available through UNLV’s New Young Rebels Program.