Scientists and Engineers STEM from Green Dot

How Do You Grow a Young Scientist?

On the last Friday in May, Green Dot’s Ánimo Leadership Charter High School hosted its eighth Science Fair. Starting at 2:00 pm, two-student teams transformed the school walkways into a massive exhibition hall, with seniors and freshmen displaying their projects on the quad and main floor, and sophomores and juniors filling the rest.

Experiments ranged from studies of the effects of smog on healthy lungs to the effectiveness of disinfectants against bacteria; from a study of how phobias evolve with age to an investigation into whether modern man evolved from chickens. All Ánimo Leadership students are required to create a science project; the top two winners from each class were chosen for the fair.


“The science fair is part of a broader program to rectify the lack of black and Latino youth currently in the sciences and medicine,” says organizer Mark Friedman, a science teacher at the school. The science fair, Friedman explained, is one of school’s many science-oriented events, including an annual Darwin Day with high-profile guest scientists, monthly field trips to the natural history museum, and more than 20 paid internships provided by the UCLA School of Medicine, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech.

Soaring Towards College

11th Grade Science Fair Winner

11th Grade Science Fair Winner DeNilson Caranza

At the fair, exhibits were judged by grad students and professors from USC and UCLA, professionals from the aerospace industry, and Green Dot science coaches. Each grade had three pairs of winners. First- and second-place winners received a laptop.

Among the 11th graders, the winning team’s exhibit was a prototype for an emergency hovercraft. “We were testing whether or not a robot could identify bodies through echolocation and infrared,” explained DeNilson Caranza, whose team designed its craft to navigate over water, land, and snow.

“I plan to be an engineer, so winning in the science fair is an important stepping-stone for me,” Caranza added. He hopes to attend UCLA or UC Davis after graduation next year.

Friedman says the school’s commitment to a broad science curriculum has resulted in nearly a ten-fold increase in Leadership’s college-bound seniors declaring a major in science or math. Whether for the winners or for the many participants, events like Ánimo Leadership’s science fair are helping Green Dot’s students soar towards a brighter future.

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