Students pitch tech to venture capitalists


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"From the solar panels, we get the energy, and it's connected to the controllers. And from there we get the energy to here," said a student, describing a vehicle that was converted to solar power at Latino College Preparatory Academy in San Jose, a school where it is cool to make stuff.

Dr. Dave Johnson says, "What they say about hands-on science turns out to be true."

Instructor Tom Zimmerman seconds that with, "Hands-on activity clearly is the winner."

The school's Extreme Science program is funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the National Hispanic University directed by Dave Johnson. In one lab, they build rockets. In another they build robots. In aeronautics lab, there are flight simulators.

It sounds like a lot of fun. But, do they learn anything?

"Yes," answers Zimmerman emphatically. "And it motivates them to go back to the books, because once they build it and find it doesn't work, and we show them they should do some simple calculations, they can see the value of what they learn in the classroom."

Tom Zimmerman is a researcher at IBM's Almaden Lab and one of the program's industry professional teachers. The target of Extreme Science is a demographic that is traditionally not expected to enter technology fields , especially girls. It seems to be working.

In tech competitions, like one at NASA Ames, and another that they recently won at Hewlett-Packard, they even deliver pitches to venture capitalists.

Veronica Acevedo says, "It was probably the hardest part."

"Because," adds fellow Senior Osvaldo Ruelas, "we didn't want to sound like we were reading everything off our PowerPoint."

Another member of Team Extreme Science, Elizabeth Hernandez Roblas, is aiming high. "I think I would like to be driving a Tesla. I think that would be nice," she said.

Fellow student Leo Torres chimed in, "For me, probably a hybrid car. Or, also a Tesla."

It is hands-on science turning the controls over to the next generation.

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