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In March, we welcomed back two STEMCAP presenters to talk about their work at Millcreek Youth Center in Ogden: Dr. Sally Rocks (Microplastics) and Amanda Barrios (Translation). Two more returning presenters Victoria Russell (Electrochemistry) and Carrie Levitt-Bussian (Paleontology) presented at Decker Lake Youth Center. We also welcomed a new presenter, Dr. Jake Hochhalter (Machine Learning), to present to our students at Farmington Bay.


Dr. Sally Rocks presented with us for the first time last Spring for our virtual Overconsumption Mission STEMCAP. She was able to join us in person this month to talk to a new group of students about her work surrounding microplastics. After giving an overview of the prevalence of plastic in our day-to-day lives, she described its omnipresence in our air, water, and bodies as microplastic. The students then did an activity to replicate her field research in finding microplastics in urban and rural environments. Dr. Rocks brought small tubs of small rocks and sand particles, only to show the students how to detect plastics in the tubs as well using orange goggles and blue lights — showing that when the plastic particles are hit with blue light, they are visible when viewed through an orange lens.

Dr. Sally Rocks – Microplastics


Amanda Barrios works as a medical and research translator at the Office of Translation and Interpretation for Clinical Research. After discovering translation work through volunteering, she was able to foster those skills and develop a career around them. She would eventually find a specialty at the University of Utah, helping Spanish speakers navigate the jargon of academic research and medicine. Amanda led an activity to show the students how a translator might study the skill – by shadowing speech (English to English) and seeing if they were able to listen and speak simultaneously. Read more about her presentation here. 

Amanda Barrios – Beyond Words


Victoria Russell presented to three classes at Decker Lake, giving them a crash course on circuits and batteries. She explained the role of her organization (the Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry) in working through new and more efficient “green” ways to create chemical structures using electricity. She did three activities: hydrolysis, Voltaic Piles, and “Squishy Circuits” – each illustrating the pathways that electricity travels and how electrochemists can attempt to control it.

Victoria Russell – Electrochemistry



Carrie Levitt Bussian also came to present at Decker Lake. She talked to students about her job as the Paleontology Collections Manager at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Carrie gave an overview of the different aspects of her job – including fieldwork, cataloging, and histological research. Read more about her presentation here. 

Carrie Levitt-Bussian – Paleontology Collections and Paleo-Histology presentation


Lastly, Dr. Jake Hochhalter came to present with STEMCAP for the first time for our students at Farmington Bay. He talked about his research and engineering experiences at NASA and as a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. Jake and the students discussed machine learning applications in the context of everyday experiences and also their application to engineering and science. They then completed the classic falling-ball experiment, initially used by Galileo to study object trajectory, both considering the context in Galileo’s time and also the modern machine learning approach.

Dr. Jake Hochhalter – Machine Learning in Engineering and Science presentation

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