STEAM-Powered Celebration Brings Smiles to Southeast San Diego   

On August 13, 2022, the second annual Southeast San Diego Science and Art Expo returned to the communities of Southeastern San Diego (SESD). This inclusive science, art, and culture event had such a successful inaugural year in 2021, that the Southeast San Diego STEM Ecosystem, UC San Diego, and other SESD community partners brought it back this year to welcome even more families from San Diego County and bring the community together for science.

Graciously hosted once again in the beauty of the Southeast San Diego community, the event provided a free, family-friendly atmosphere for students and their families to experience the “science of the world around us.” The CSSI, funded by UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, believes that all individuals should have equal access to opportunities and that increasing diversity in science is vital to this goal as it impacts innovation and advancement and provides opportunities to combat social disparities/injustices. Therefore, UC San Diego CREATE is committed to supporting and serving communities that are underrepresented in STEM,  in order to improve their access and interest to STEM education and careers – after all, STEM is the fastest-growing job sector and can lead to well-paid careers.

In many San Diegan communities, there are so many other things that are top-of-mind priority before scientific exploration, that science needs to be reintroduced to them as something that community members interact with on a daily basis instead of something extra. So how is that done? “We do that by bringing community organizations and resources – both science and not-science, to prepare the next generation with the community resources that are available and accessible to them,” says Dr. Beto Vasquez, the founder and lead visionary of the SESD Science & Art Expo.

With leadership from UC San Diego’s Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE),  the Southeast San Diego STEM Ecosystem, and the San Diego Public Library, this year’s SESD Science and Art Expo was held on Saturday, August 13, 2022 at the Malcolm X/Valencia Park Library from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Community members flocked to Southeastern San Diego from all over San Diego County to participate in the hands-on STEAM activities generously provided by esteemed partners at their booths. This included live performances and demonstrations that highlighted the science behind lowrider cars (thank you, Diego Style!), animals, drones, and art activities with leather, metal, paint and silk screening. Further, some booths focused on parent education including healthcare information, homecare resources, and college readiness preparation for their students.

This year the Southeast Science & Art Expo proudly partnered with dozens of Booth Exhibitors to showcase their passion for science and art, whether they identify as scientific organizations or not. Some of these companies, public institutions, and community organizations provided interactive demonstrations with plenty of freebies to take home and build on their curiosity. The Diego Style Car Club adorned the landscape with their decorative and hopping cars to fuse art and culture and educate the public about the science of lowriders. Meanwhile, 3-in-1 Design helped attendees screen-print their own tote bags, Dentlok Tattoos explained the science behind temporary tattoos and Greater Than Tech and Detour’s Fancy Girls were in attendance sharing about the great opportunities available through them. The day also included live science shows and a STEM tour of the Elementary Institute of Science and Malcolm X Library’s Teen Tech Center. MAD Science kicked off the day with their “Fire and Ice” show, trailblazing the day’s agenda for EcoVivarium who slithered in with their live reptile showcase. Going out with a bang, the team from the DIII-D National Fusion Facility performed a cool and explosive show (using demos with sub-zero temperatures)! Of course the youth were equally excited to have the County’s Game Truck join us as well! Partners and event leaders alike demonstrated the importance of partnering with these facilities/groups, local organizations, and all of our neighbors, in an effort to access community resources and uplift our youth and community members.

The outdoor extravaganza was emceed by Roosevelt Williams III, from Young, Black & in Business who seamlessly worked with DJ Wicho who was spinning tunes to get the crowd moving and ready for the day’s activities and prizes! In addition to hands-on, family-friendly science investigations onstage and at individual partner booths, the SESD Science & Art Expo also provided free food, raffle tickets, prizes, and multiple giveaway opportunities to further engage San Diegan community members in STEAM in everyday life. To continue to evolve and meet the needs of the constituents served in Southeastern San Diego, the planning team also performed purposeful community listening in an organic way thanks to collaborative work between the Fleet Science Center and the San Diego STEM Ecosystem.

With gratitude, the Southeast San Diego Science and Art Festival 2022 was sponsored by DoD STEM, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, UC San Diego CREATE, and the Southeast San Diego STEM Ecosystem. On behalf of all partners and the planning team, thank you for the time and energy devoted to helping to bring this event to fruition. Please check our website for a photo gallery of this year’s event as well as for registration information for next year’s event! We look forward to seeing you there! 

If you would like to learn more, get involved, or fund this project, please contact Dr. Beto Vasquez at alv002@ucsd.edu.