Friday, May 25, 2012

Want to know how things are made?

I stumbled upon this site the other day while looking into various manufacturing processes for my technical paper. It has everything from machining parts to chocolate making and show's you how they are made. It's pretty interesting so check it out.


N. Riazi

Thursday, May 24, 2012

College: Getting Started

How did you get started on your track to college? What should I do to be on a similar track?

From the perspective of a sophomore high school student, your first goal should be good grades. Absolutely number one priority. It's basically how I got into UC Berkeley (I decided not to go, but that's another story for another time :-D). Remember there's also the dreaded SAT. Honestly, I didn't study, but looking back, I should have. Go get a book from the local bookstore...and study that. You don't need any fancy classes (unless your high school offers them for free/cheap!). If you need more guidance about when and how to study for the SAT, let me know.

The next goal is package yourself into a well-rounded individual.  Basically, a college wants a person who will do things after they graduate...not just get good grades.  Everyone applying to college will have good grades (actually I'm wrong in this aspect...but your grades will NOT make you stick out on a college application).  What do you like to do in your spare time?  Do you volunteer? Are you part of a club/organization (in or out of school)/church?  Try to make those experiences even richer in the next year or so.

Finally. What do you value? I know this is a very hard question...even I am trying to answer this question as we speak.  But the sooner you find out...or at least start looking for the answers...the richer you can make your experiences (which goes beyond college applications). You could value people, or technology, or space exploration, or family, or I don't know. You need to answer this question for yourself...not just for me or your college applications. From this question, you can package yourself through activities/leadership/college major/etc. It sets you up for life.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Lately, I've been thinking of how to craft my graduate personal statements.  I often look over the past year, and tell myself, "Man, I haven't done anything!"

But the opposite is actually true.  This past year, I have ramped up my mentoring. I've started this blog, I've been involved with a few outreach/mentoring programs, and I started helping out with the 6th grade class I mentioned in my last post.

And you know what I've realized? There's more that can be done.  The number of mentors is like....non-existent. No wonder nobody knows what engineering is!

On that note: I've been talking with a few high schoolers, and they don't really know how the application process for college works.  So my next few posts will be regarding those questions (especially for those in California).

Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

College of Engineering

Oh my goodness! I made the UC Davis College of Engineering Facebook pictures! I'm repping my Society of Women Engineers T-Shirt, too!

See that poster that I'm holding?  It's actually my Senior Project poser for the Undergraduate Research Conference! The photoshoot just happened to be the same day as the poster session. Great prop, huh?


Monday, May 21, 2012

Giving Back

After STEM for Girls, I was asked by a teacher of a local elementary school to help her kids out with a few science projects. I said, "Why not?"

The first Friday, I walked into a class of about 50 sixth graders (it was two classes combined), and honestly, it was a (err?) culture shock.  I forgot what it was like to be in 6th grade.  Not quite an adult....not quite a kid. But I went with it.

I decided to do the famous Non-Newtonian Fluid experiment with 1 part water, 2 parts cornstarch.  Seriously, these kids had so much fun! At the end of the session, one girl came up to me, "Maestra Serena! What are we doing next week?!" She was so excited, I honestly didn't know what to say.

So the next week, I decided on making catapults with duct tape, glue, Popsicle sticks and rubber bands.  I put them into groups of 2 and 3, and let them do their thing. My goal was to give them as little instruction as possible, and I said, "It's okay if it doesn't work, but try your best."

It was great to watch.  Some groups had some quarrels, and noted that in the end.  Others wanted a little more instruction.  Most of the time, the kids would be yelling, "Maestra Serena! I need help!"...even through their catapults would be nearly finished, lol. Others would completely ignore my advice, and said, "It'll work, trust me." I know I go through those moments with my engineering coursework, haha.

Honestly, it feels great to give back. The kids were very excited to see me, and I'm surprised they remembered who I was. I can't even describe what kind of joy this mini project has given me. I'm always trying to put myself in their shoes....what can I do that would be fun, thought-provoking, and cheap all at the same time?  

It's made me wonder how to revolutionize the way science is structured in K-12.  What could we do with these kids that is cheap, takes little time, and yet, totally worthwhile?  If I'm able to do it as a poor college student, what is stopping the schools? Food for thought.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

How To: LED Throwies

I may have a slight addiction to dance movies. Watching Step Up 3 a while back I encountered what the film calls "neoflies" but which are LED throwies. It's basically a form of light graffiti in a way. Create, and attach to any metal surface and you're on your way. They are fairly inexpensive  and just amusing to have around.

Things you'll need:

10 mm diffused LED lights (about 10 cents each at the hardware store)
Lithium battery (mine we're 4 for a dollar I believe but I recently found them on ebay 100 for $20, the more you get the cheaper they are)
Rare Earth Magnet (25 for $15 but this was just what I had on hand, you can use any kind of small magnet)
Tape (any kind, I used electric tape)
or Epoxy (if you're planning on leaving them out, more weather resistant)

From here it's quite simple.
(1) Take the led light figure out which end is the long one and which is the short one; long is the anode (+), short is the cathode (-). Attach the positive part of the LED to the positive part of the battery. If it doesnt light up you've aligned it wrong, just flip the battery and you should be fine. If you're still having problems you've either got a bad LED or the wrong battery.
(2) Hold the battery onto the one side.
(3) Tape it neatly. It looks cooler when it doesn't look like its wrapped in a quarter yard of tape. NOTE: if you're using Epoxy please follow safety directions.
(4) Throw and enjoy.


N. Riazi