Science and space enthusiasts from the local community gathered earlier this semester for hands-on learning about space travel and research geared towards middle school and high school students at the tenth annual Mars Expo, held for the first time at Loyola Marymount University’s Westchester Campus.
“Promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics among K-12 students is important,” said Gustavo Vejarano, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, who brought the event to LMU’s campus. “Space exploration is a great way to inspire kids, our next generation of STEM professionals.”
This event was jointly hosted by LMU, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Coastal Los Angeles section, and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Los Angeles.
“Having an exhibition such as this encourages children to find joy in STEM,” said Fred Lawler, the event’s lead organizer. “It also allows companies involved in STEM to push for diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.” A council member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the world’s largest aerospace technical society, Lawler also shared that events like these are a platform for networking and exposing young people to newer technology.
Demonstrations of a Mars Rover landing site drew crowds for its scale-model, real-life depiction of the famous space exploration vehicle. Mary Magilligan, a lecturer in the Systems Engineering Program and mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, presented ROV-E, modeled after one of NASA’s most famous rovers, at only 1/10th of its original size. An original wheel of the actual rover was also on display.
Additional organizations and demonstrations excited the imaginations of STEM fans in attendance at the Featherston Life Sciences Building’s Hannon Courtyard. Other exhibits included Space Systems Command’s three satellite models for surveillance, communication, and GPS; three aerospace vehicles – Atlas V, Falcon 9, ULA Vulcan Centaur – as well as a bag of space debris that had floated for seven years in space until it landed in Spain.
Eve Thullen, an LMU systems engineering alumna, returned to campus after seven years to explore the exhibit with her children and network with the societies.
One activity that engaged children and adults alike was painting their own planet. Steve Martin, of Project Management Institute – Los Angeles, offered tiny acrylic globes to people, which could be dipped and rolled in various colors. He then attached the globe to a light so participants walked home with their own “planet.”
Some of the organizations and companies in attendance included NASA JPL, Space Systems Command, Girls in STEM Club – Columbia Memorial Space Center, Society of Women Engineers L.A., Aerospace Corporation, and the History Office of the U.S. Air Force.
LMU organizations in attendance included the LMU Rocket Team, Experimental Planetary Fluid Dynamics Lab, LMU CubeSat Club, INCOSE Student Club, and Career and Professional Development.