University of California, Riverside

Center for Environmental Research & Technology

CE-CERT and Bourns Host 2018 STEP Conference

CE-CERT and Bourns Host 2018 STEP Conference

October 11, 2018

STEP StudentsOn October 3, 2018, the Center for Environmental Research and Technology partnered with Bourns, Inc. to host the annual STEPCon event. This conference, now in its 8th year, aims to promote interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field careers for students through the exploration of the most current research and technology in these areas. 271 high school students from the Riverside Unified School District toured CE-CERT’s laboratories, completed hands-on activities, and discussed the latest research with CE-CERT graduate students.

Upon arrival, students had the opportunity to explore the science and policy behind community air quality monitoring. Facilitated by CE-CERT Deputy Director Nicole Cleary, this exhibit featured an interactive air quality map, a discussion of the monitoring tools used, and information about how to get involved. Students and faculty had the opportunity to take a survey, and to join an interest list before heading out for the main laboratory tour.

SimulatorThe first station on the tour was the atmospheric processes laboratory, in which graduate students Weihan Peng and Paul Van Rooy discussed 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 can be controlled there, as well as how those elements are used in the study of how pollutants interact with the atmosphere.

At the second station, Transportation Systems Research graduate students Nigel Williams, Fei Ye, Chao Wang, and Ziran Wang 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.

The third station provided students with the opportunity to learn about biofuels, and discover how a bioreactor works. Graduate students May Ling Lu, Priya Sengupta, Christian Alcaraz, and Priyanka Singh introduced students to the concept of deriving usable fuels from biomass such as switchgrass and other plant waste, and guided them through the steps used in the conversion process.

ARCS LabAt the final station, graduate students Minerva Uribe-Robles and Yaqiong Li introduced students to the relationship between light and color perception through the use of different shades of LED light. The concepts of reflection and refraction were also discussed. Once the CE-CERT lab tour was complete, high school participants had the option to explore the interactive STEP exhibits in the Bourns Technology Center.

At the conclusion of the STEP high school tours, the laboratory activities were extended into the evening for an Open House event in celebration of California Clean Air Day.  In addition to the STEP laboratory demonstrations, two additional exhibits were introduced. UC Riverside’s Environmental Dynamics and GeoEcology  (EDGE) Institute showcased its new mobile lab, which features the latest in advanced portable instrumentation designed to study the effects of climate change on plant and animal life in the field, and the Bourns College of Engineering’s Autonomous Robots and Control Systems laboratory used drone technology to demonstrate the fundamental research that makes controlling robots possible. AQMD representative and UC Riverside student Brandon Feenstra and UC Riverside Sustainability Officer Fortino Morales joined the Open House exhibitors as well.

The evening event attracted an additional 80 attendees from the community, who enjoyed a self-guided lab tour, hands-on activities, light refreshments, and research presentations on topics such as community air quality monitoring, connected and automated vehicle technologies, and biofuels.

Thank you to the 2018 STEP Conference Sponsors:



EDGE Mobile Lab STEP Students



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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