University of California, Riverside

Center for Environmental Research & Technology

CE-CERT Partners with Bourns Inc. to Host Another Successful STEP Conference

CE-CERT Partners with Bourns Inc. to Host Another Successful STEP Conference

October 10, 2017

This annual STEP conference aims to promote interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field careers for students, and features activities targeted to teachers, high school and middle school students.
STEP KeynoteThe 2017 Step Conference (STEPCon17) opened on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 with a STEP Teacher Conference event. Approximately 240 K-12 STEM teachers came together at CE-CERT to brainstorm on ways to improve instruction in the STEM fields. The event featured a CEO panel discussion as well as a keynote presentation by Kenneth Wesson, an educational consultant with a specialization in neuroscience.
On the second day of the STEP conference (October 4, 2017), approximately 250 high school students visited six of CE-CERT’s transportation-focused laboratories for hands-on activities, demonstrations, and technology discussions with CE-CERT’s graduate students. Labs and demonstrations included the following:

Aqueous Biomass Processing Laboratory: Graduate students Christian Alcaraz, Priyanka Sigh and Priya Sengupta demonstrated how biofuels created in their lab could be used to power vehicles, and explained the pretreatment process of turning plants into fuel for transportation. Students were able to see an alternative fuel being used in a working vehicle. 

APL ChamberAtmospheric Processes Laboratory: Graduate students Weihan Peng and Xinze Peng demonstrated how secondary aerosols are studied in the world’s largest indoor atmospheric chamber. Students were able to enter the chamber, where they learned about the type of elements (temperature, light, etc.) that could be controlled there, as well as how those elements are used in the study of how pollutants interact with the atmosphere. Also, graduate students William Litchenberg and Christos Stamatis demonstrated a gas sampling procedure using an apparatus set up to illustrate how the formation of organic compounds from biomass burning and other combustion sources is studied.
Solar Energy Research Laboratory: Undergraduate students Jeffrey Geiger and Sebastian Gomez, along with graduate students Kichang Jung and Jiyong Kim discussed the basic principles of batteries, and assisted the students in creating their own batteries from common household items such as nails, copper wire, ice cube trays, and vinegar. Each of the finished cells provided enough power to light an LED lightbulb.

Transportation Research Laboratory: Graduate student Nigel Williams led students through a test drive of an eco-driving simulator designed to model heavy-duty trucks driving under various traffic conditions. Students were able to observe output such as the truck’s speed, acceleration and fuel consumption, as well as the simulator-generated energy-saving driving recommendations that were delivered directly to the driver in real time. Additionally, graduate student Chao Wang demonstrated the lab’s precision roadway mapping system, a remote sensing tool used to create high precision maps used by connected and automated cars. Students learned that this mapping system is critical to the future of automated cars, as it provides highly detailed and accurate mapping, and were able to view LIDAR images of themselves on a high-definition monitor, where different colors highlighted their distance to the rotating sensor.

Simulator     LIDAR
Vehicle Emissions Research Laboratory: Graduate students Cavan McCaffery and Joey Yang demonstrated how to measure particulate matter emissions from light-duty vehicles.  Students explored how a light-duty dynamometer operates, observing the position of the vehicle during testing, how exhaust emissions are collected, and where the research on the data takes place. Discussion topics included the importance of testing vehicles for their emission outputs, and testing different types of fuels to potentially find a greener blend of gasoline.
Additionally, a special STEP-Talk was presented on the afternoon of the second day by UTC Fellowship Winner Brandon Feenstra on the topic, “A Summary of Three Years of Air Quality Sensor Testing and Deployments in the South Coast Air Quality Management’s (SCAQMD) Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center (AQ-SPEC).”
On the final day of the conference, Thursday, October 5th, 2017, 40 female middle school students toured CE-CERT’s Atmospheric Processes and Transportation Research laboratories, and participated in a small group activity in which they created their own battery cells.

Battery Workshop  STEP GEMS
STEP Group
This event was made possible by these generous sponsors:

National Center for Sustainable Transportation

UCConnect Logo

The University of California Center on Economic Competitiveness in Transportation

Carteeh Logo

The Center for Advancing Research in Transportation Emissions, Energy, and Health


More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Center Information

Center for Environmental Research & Technology
1084 Columbia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92507
Directions to CERT

Tel: (951) 781-5791
Fax: (951) 781-5790

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