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USC Viterbi launches K-12 STEM outreach program

Two students work together to construct a rudimentary flashlight. (Photo/Philip Channing)

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering has established a new and comprehensive K-12 STEM outreach program called Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher (VAST).

The program’s aim is to connect K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers and students at schools in the Los Angeles area with USC engineering faculty and students.

“The USC Viterbi faculty and students are a unique outreach resource,” said Maja Matarić, professor and vice dean for research at USC Viterbi. “They have expertise and experience in STEM and a great enthusiasm to share, inspire and educate.

“This is an as-yet untapped resource that will bring the two communities together in ways that will benefit all,” added Maja Matarić, who also holds appointments at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The program intends to provide new opportunities to stimulate young minds and develop innovative STEM teaching approaches while engaging every faculty member within USC Viterbi.

Through collaborative relationships, USC Viterbi expects to foster mentorship, role modeling, professional development, and the cultivation and dissemination of new instructional materials and activities

The entire USC Viterbi faculty will be encouraged to engage in this outreach effort, potentially connecting numerous K-12 schools in the Los Angeles metropolis to VAST. In this way, its impact on Southern California’s K-12 system is expected to be significant.

This faculty-teacher-student network is intended to broaden the discourse on improving K-12 STEM education achievement and engagement. Participants will have the opportunity to develop creative ways to promote student knowledge, motivation and interest in STEM studies.

The VAST program will support all levels of K-12 students and their families, from elementary to middle to high school, each of which present key stages in learning and career decision-making. VAST faculty-teacher-student interactions will include:

• mentorship: Personal communication and collaboration through a new VAST social networking site

• instructional strategy and material development: support for classroom instruction through providing or jointly creating instructional materials, physical props and digital media assets

• active presence: in-class and school assembly presentations and demonstrations. Graduate students will serve as in-class role models for K-12 students.

• training and professional development: on-campus training for K-12 teachers, including opportunities to work on USC Viterbi faculty projects or in faculty laboratories.

To be more comprehensive, VAST has been designed so that all participants will benefit

• K-12 teachers will gain access to the USC faculty’s extensive and advanced expertise, including cutting-edge research, engaging know-how, and instructional materials, strategies and activities.

• K-12 students will gain access to scientists of all ages (from undergraduate to doctoral students, up to full professors), their labs and their research.

• USC faculty will gain access to partnerships that can be leveraged for sponsored research projects with outreach components, including early career grants and center grants.

• USC students will gain access to training and development opportunities, giving a new generation of scientists the ability to make a difference in STEM education and to meet the challenges of urban education.

The VAST program is now open for all constituencies. For more information, visit or

USC Viterbi launches K-12 STEM outreach program

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