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Actually, It Is Rocket Science

Students from Cabrillo and Wilson high schools’ Urban Math Collaborative have partnered with Bob Barboza, Long Beach’s version of The Science Guy, to tackle project-based learning that may come in handy during explorations of Mars.

The math collaborative now serves about 175 Wilson and Cabrillo students after starting three years ago as an outgrowth of Jordan High School’s Long Beach Math Collaborative.  Both programs aim to increase the number of under-represented students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  Through mentoring and an emphasis on study skills and rigorous instruction, the programs help to make sure that students, specifically young men of color, are meeting the A-G entrance requirements for admission to the University of California and California State University systems.

Students wearing white lab coats and orange NASA jumpsuits regularly meet with Barboza, whose Barboza Space Center (barbozaspacecenter.com) partners with multiple agencies on aviation and space education.  The most recent project for 10 “Tiger Team” scholars among the math collaborative students at Wilson and Cabrillo was to build and program computers that would be used for math calculations on future projects.  The students demonstrated their wares by hosting a booth at a recent Pathways Program for Aviation and Space at Ontario International Airport. 

During the Saturday event in Ontario, the students also interacted with representatives of the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other experts on airline pilot training, drone training, air traffic control, aeronautics and astronautics, satellites, robotics engineering including design engineering for Mars, rocket engine design and more.

“We are planning the first school on Mars,” Barboza says matter-of-factly.  “We want to get students around the world excited about working together and studying STEM as they pursue careers in the aviation and aerospace industry.”

At the Ontario event, the team of 10 Wilson and Cabrillo students were initially taken aback by the 500 or so participants milling about the airport hangars.

“But then they started talking to people from the TSA and the FBI, and the students were just really into it.  You could see their intensity and engagement,” said Cabrillo counselor Terrence Bryant, who along with Wilson counselor Michael Crowder-Jones directs the Urban Math Collaborative.

“We’re so excited to be a part of these opportunities,” Bryant said.

A LEG UP – Students and staff from Cabrillo and Wilson high schools joined design engineer Bob Barboza, fourth from right in front, and his crab-like Mars rover prototype robot during a recent Pathways Program for Aviation and Space at Ontario International Airport.