We’re Back! The Return of Barrio Logan Science & Art Expo

After a couple years of waiting, we were thrilled to be back! The 2022 Barrio Logan Science & Art Expo, which took place on Saturday, April 16, was truly a representation of the growth and resilience of UC San Diego’s CREATE STEM Success Initiative (CSSI), the Barrio Logan Association and various community partners – even in the midst of a pandemic. Building on the momentum from our 2019 Barrio Logan Science & Art Expo (BLSAE), and considering the event was postponed and later canceled in 2020 and 2021, this year’s expo was both a comeback and celebration of the science, art, and culture that surrounds us every day!

BLSAE was imagined and executed by Hector Villegas, chair of the Barrio Logan Association, and Dr. Alberto “Beto” Vasquez, the community outreach and STEM engagement coordinator with CREATE CSSI, an initiative supported by UC San Diego’s Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE). However, it could not have been pulled off without this year’s partners at the Barrio Logan Association, mercado del Barrio, Generation STEAM, Urban Corps, DoDSTEM and the San Diego Science & Engineering Festival- which adopted this event as the “kick-off” event for their STEM-based community block parties. 

Graciously hosted once again at the beautiful Mercado del Barrio, located in the heart of the Barrio Logan community, the event was backdropped with the iconic Chicano Park and Coronado Bridge, and 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 is well paid.

With over 50 booths hosted by local colleges/universities, community organizations and businesses, over 2,000 children and adults enjoyed a day of culturally relevant and engaging interactive demonstrations with plenty of freebies to take home and build on their curiosity. 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, Dr. Boom and the team from the DIII-D National Fusion Facility performed a cool and explosive show (using demos with sub-zero temperatures). Simultaneously, local businesses, Ryan Bros Coffee and Attitude Brewery, provided a behind-the-scenes tours of the science of coffee making and brewing.

Other organizations hosted interactive booths, provided make-n-take activities, and gave prizes, all at no cost! The Impalas Car Club broke the monotony of the STEM event by adorning the landscape with their decorative cars and worked with Dr. Lorenza Levy (City College) to help 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 local chapters from the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos & Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) represented their schools and served as examples to younger generations of what scientists and engineers look like. Of these, UC San Diego’s SACNAS Chapter culturally-connected science by teaching about the biology, chemistry and physics of tortillas (which attendees got to make and eat!). Thankfully, because of our partnership with Generation STEAM and San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering, this year we were also joined by Illumina who had their throng of scientists and engineers lead activities that had students design their own emoji, take photos in their science-themed photo booth, and much more!

In addition to the expo itself, which provided a variety of activities, microscopes, giveaways, and opportunity drawings for teachers, attendees were also able to take advantage of booths sharing local opportunities targeted toward the Barrio Logan community, paid high school internships, free summer camps for students, information on obtaining free trees and local community gardens, and just hearing from business leaders and STEM professionals who were eager to share their knowledge with the next generation. In that same spirit, the Mayor of San Diego, Todd Gloria, stopped by the event to remind our students “that if you see it, then you can be it,” and to celebrate the diversity, innovation, creativity, and culture that make San Diego so great.

We were also excited to host a Student Art Competition that showcased STEAM-related art pieces made of recycled materials. Prizes for the winners included sweatshirts, backpacks full of fun school supplies, generously donated San Diego Loyal Soccer Club swag boxes, and those who placed first, second, and third also received a brand-new laptop. Everyone who participated also received a pocket microscope to continue to encourage their curiosity and interest in science!

Volunteers, event staff, and organizations that hosted booths were also invited to a complimentary lunch provided by Maggie’s Cafe, Ryan Bros Coffee, Chikita Cafe, and Northgate Market- all local businesses in the area.

Who Made This Possible?

Anchoring the event were UC San Diego faculty, organizations, and undergraduate students, along with community college student groups, who shared their knowledge – and their enthusiasm for STEM at booths and tables. Some of the colleges represented at tables and as volunteers included San Diego State University, San Diego City College, Grossmont College, and a partner in this event, the Barrio Logan College Institute. Using hands-on, highly interactive demonstrations, students from local community colleges and surrounding universities explained (in both English and Spanish) the science behind day-to-day phenomena to the hundreds of families in attendance.

Without the support of our community, this event, which fused together science, art, and culture, would not have been possible. It was only with the support of all exhibitors like the County of San Diego Vector Control Program, Treobytes, Mundo Gardens, the Fleet Science Center, Carollo Engineers, the New Children’s Museum, and many others, that we could lessen apprehension about STEM, and remind the community of how much science we interact with daily. Additionally, we would be remiss if we didn’t thank the UC San Diego partners like UC San Diego’s Bioengineering (Dr. Ester Kwon Lab), Mechanical Engineering (Dr. Boris Kamer), Department of Physics (Dr. Adam Burgasser, Dr. Javier Duarte, & Dr. Daniel Gonzales) professors and students, & Dr. Victor Minces (Science of Sound), who responded to the call to action. 

Of course, we were only able to bring this vision to fruition through the leadership of UC San Diego CREATE & the Barrio Logan Association and generous support from Mercado Del Barrio, the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering, and of course our volunteers. 

In closing and in the spirit of acknowledging the value of “community” in a place as special as Barrio Logan, we would also like to give a warm shout out and thank you to Roosevelt Williams III from Young Black & ’N Business for being a most gracious emcee and DJ Rambo for providing the soundtrack for such a beautiful afternoon, and our gracious volunteers (from the community, Barrio Logan College Institute, CREATE and STEMULATE) for their involvement and support. It is important that we, as a local and global society, facilitate the spread of opportunity and resources so that they are equally available to everyone. Thank you once again, and be sure to plan your visit to the 2023 Barrio Logan Science & Art Expo! 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!