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USC Viterbi students to shape body engineering

USC Viterbi Students to Shape Body Engineering
Back row, from left: Maja Matarić, Krishna Nayak, Andrea Hodge and Giselle Ragusa. Seated, from left: Jay Mung, Dave Herman and Tim Nayar

Three USC graduate students will start an educational enterprise under the auspices of Body Engineering Los Angeles (BE-LA), a new National Science Foundation (NSF) program headquartered at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Jay Mung, Tim Nayar and Dave Herman will be spending 15 hours per week in sixth- and seventh-grade science classrooms of local middle schools. The students will bring their knowledge of engineering and science to their roles as scientists in residence. Their mission: “Be a role model. Fuel curiosity.”

The trio won fellowships in the program by, among other tests, delivering 10-minute presentations on their specialties – ultrasound technology, musculo-skeletal materials modeling and neural environmental sensing, respectively – and using a vocabulary that young students could understand.

Mung and Nayar are Ph.D. candidates at USC Viterbi. Herman studies at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Krishna Nayak of USC Viterbi’s Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering serves as principal investigator of the program.

Following orientation and training, the scientists will develop course material with the goal of improving teaching in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM).

The Los Angeles Unified School District institutions to take part in the program are El Sereno, 32nd Street School/USC MaST Magnet, Foshay Learning Center, Berendo, Hollenbeck and John Muir.

BE-LA will focus on the idea that the human body is a machine that can be studied, experimented upon, analyzed and (when necessary) repaired. The lesson plans to be developed by the scientists in residence will involve the measurement of human bodies and development of physical models in the classroom to duplicate human activities. For example, students will learn how the coupling of the voice box and tongue allow people to speak.

By the end of November, the budding USC scientists will have completed a program of intensive training, associating with specialists in education and meeting the teachers who will work with them when the program begins next spring.

The NSF program includes three USC Viterbi co-principal investigators. Professor Andrea Hodge of the Department of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering and senior associate dean Maja Matarić serve with Gisele Ragusa, who has appointments at USC Viterbi and the USC Rossier School of Education. Luz Rivas, director of research at Iridescent Learning, a science-education nonprofit, is the fourth co-principal.

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