Hands-on STEM training for high school students in Riverside Public Utilities Department’s STEM PULL Academy

Hands-on STEM training for high school students in Riverside Public Utilities Department’s STEM PULL Academy

A group of 70 Riverside high school students recently participated in several days of hands-on training with the Riverside Public Utilities Department to learn about potential careers in the utilities industry.


The week, facilitated by the Science and Technology Education Partnership, provided students with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training and gave them the opportunity to apply those skills in the Riverside Public Utilities Learning Lab (PULL).


“When the students got up and presented their projects, I was floored with how knowledgeable they were in such a short period of time and the amount of effort and out-of-the-box thinking the projects entailed,” said Jo Lynne Russo-Pereyra, chairman of the Board of Public Utilities, in a press release. “Their parents were in the audience, and they’re learning not only about RPU, but also infrastructure needs through the eyes of their children.”


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Employees of the various divisions of Riverside Public Utilities provided the curriculum for the STEM PULL Academy, which included lineman demonstrations with bucket trucks and equipment; the role STEM plays in the utility industry; field trips to the Riverside Energy Resource Center, wastewater treatment plant and customer service locations; team skills development; 3D computer design and printing; laser cutting and engraving; welding and woodworking; electronics and soldering; engineering and water reuse processes and water quality testing; Brick Pi robots; advanced utility technologies; IT: cyber security; public benefits, community engagement and crisis communication workshops.


At the end of the week, students developed and presented their STEM PULL projects during the design challenge competition. Riverside Public Utilities Board members attended the presentations and judging.


Twelve teams of four to five students presented their concepts to a panel of judges. The top three teams won scholarships of $1,000, $750 and $500.  They will also participate in a yearlong mentorship opportunity with Gordon Bourns, Bourns Inc. and graduate students from UCR and California Baptist University Bourns College of Engineering.


Through this mentorship, students will have the opportunity to continue to work on their projects, further refining their ideas. At the end of the mentorship, some teams may be on their way to having a marketable project and/or a patent on their idea. Students in the mentorship will also have opportunities to participate in community activities, such as presenting at a City Council meeting or other events.


Following are the top three teams and their projects.


• First-place project is “Line Down,” an app that would detect problems with utility poles and use GIS technology to find the exact location of the faulty poles. Team members are Samuel Green, Jordan Whiting and Brett Hile of Martin Luther King High School and Leonardo Acosta of STEM Academy High School.


• Second-place project is “Leak Master,” a sensor that would be placed on all new pipes as they are installed, which would notify RPU of pipe leaks that are too small to be detected from above ground. Team members are Isaac Garcia and Caleb VanHaster, Woodcrest Christian High School; and Iliana Lazaro, Leslie Zamora and Jose Ibarra, Arlington High School.


• Third-place project is P.A.T. (Public Alert technology), a sensor that would be used with GIS technology to immediately identify and specifically locate outages and problems in transmission lines. Team members are Molly Dewitt and Shevani Patel, Arlington High School; and Shahnawaz Lateef, David Polach and Angela Figueroa, La Sierra High School.