Aisse Torres – STEM Super Youth Advocate: King County
I was in 6th grade when I fell in love with science. My class was participating in a physics unit where we were in charge of showing our knowledge of physics by creating a mousetrap racecar. I participated in the speed competition which meant that I needed to think about a few things in particular to make my car the best that it could be.
I had to think about the size of my car —it needed to be lightweight enough so that the force exerted by the mousetrap could better accelerate my car. This was using one of Isaac Newton’s most famous equations: F = MA (force=mass x acceleration). I had changed the equation so that, instead, I could focus on A = F/M. This creative equation swap told me that the more mass my car had, the slower my car would accelerate. Conversely, the less mass in my car, the greater the acceleration would be.
The other thing I focused on was friction. This was because of Newton’s other really important law which tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I could see that as my car was moving against any surface, the surface would push against the wheels of my car. In fact, this is the sole reason my car could run in the first place. Without good friction (without the surface of the floor pushing back on my car) my car would not move and my tires would likely just spin out.
I ended up winning this competition. However, looking back on it, what was most exciting was not the prospect of winning a competition, nor was it using tools to build a miniature car from scratch; although this was indeed quite satisfying and fun. What really stood out to me for the rest of my years in middle school and high school (and even now in college) was the intense satisfaction of knowing how things work and how you can improve them. Learning simple physics enabled me to understand the world around me. I could explain how the earth beneath my feet exerted a force on me that enabled me to walk, why we need to wear our seatbelts, why the wings of an airplane are shaped the way they are and many other things.
My first memorable experience in a STEM taught me how to think; it taught me how to come up with theories and ideas. It sparked the curiosity in me that caused me to yearn to discover other scientific laws and principals. It made me excited not only to learn, but to think about the infinite number of things still waiting to be discovered and understood.
I have taken this drive with me to Columbia University where I am currently studying Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. I am a STEM Super Youth Advocate because I believe that every student in our state deserves the opportunity to engage with the same ideas that I did. They deserve to be exposed to scientific knowledge and hands on engineering. We need to encourage students across our state to be the ones who go out into the world and discover and understand those things which we have yet to. That’s why I’m a Super Youth Advocate.