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Reach for Tomorrow (RFT) 2012

RFT 2012
TDLC has a longstanding commitment to K-12 education, with well-established outreach efforts directed towards educators, students, and parents. The Center takes particular pride in working with communities underrepresented in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Not only are these students less likely to have access to the resources necessary to fulfill their academic goals, but they are more likely, under the circumstances, to have lower expectations, and often by the time they reach middle school, these youngsters have abandoned their dreams and have surrendered to the notion that a post-secondary education just isn't in the cards for them. This doesn't necessarily mean that these students aren't optimistic about their futures, but that they expect a little less of themselves. To reach out to these students, TDLC partners with groups and organizations that have a well established track record in K-12 outreach.

In what has now become an annual tradition, the Center joins forces with the Reach for Tomorrow (RFT) organization (http://www.reachfortomorrow.org/) to bring at-risk middle and high school students to UC San Diego every summer for a week of immersion in state of the art research. The intent is to inspire the students to pursue a career in the STEM fields by giving them a firsthand look at what goes on in research labs of these disciplines. A group of TDLC's investigators and trainees come together to host one full day of lab experiences, along with the Center's educational partner, The Preuss School (http://preuss.ucsd.edu/), a middle school and high school on the UCSD campus whose student body is primarily comprised of underrepresented minorities.

The Machine Perception Lab (directed by Drs. Javier Movellan and Marni Bartlett) has been a staple for years in organizing exciting demos for the RFT students. All of the personnel in this relatively large lab get involved to bring their robots to life and demonstrate the various technologies they have developed, including their fully automated Computer Expression Recognition Toolbox (CERT; http://mplab.ucsd.edu/~marni/Projects/CERT.htm).
Dr. Howard Poizner's lab has also been involved every year that TDLC has hosted RFT students, giving a comprehensive tour of his state of the art motion capture facility. The students got to play with the lab's intrinsically fun technologies, including exploring a virtual reality environment.

The Neurosciences Outreach Program, another regular host of the RFT students, presented a comparative neuroanatomy tutorial. The RFT students handled preserved brains from a variety of animals, and learned how to identify their significant structures, while comparing them to make deductions about their functions and which animals they likely belonged to.
Alex Khalil, who directs the Center's Gamelan Project, discussed his research that uses Balinese gamelan, an Indonesian musical style that relies heavily on the coordinated rhythmic interaction of the ensemble members. Dr. Khalil, who earned his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, has found a correlation between children's gamelan performance (specifically, their ability to synchronize with the ensemble) and their scores on attentional measures.

The Preuss School's robotics club has been a regular participant in the Reach for Tomorrow program's visit to UCSD, headed by Preuss instructor Daniel Rupert. Dan and members of the robotics club showcased their competition robot and gave the RFT students an opportunity to test-drive it, while discussing the design and building process. The Preuss students are always an important part of the TDLC day, because their interaction with the RFT students is one between peers. With that comes a rapport that allows for a candid exchange of ideas. At the end of the day, the RFT students left encouraged to form robotics clubs of their own, hoping themselves to one day compete.

More Info:

> UCSD News Article about RFT
> Article in Calit2