by Yasmeen Garcia, SMASH:UCLA scholar
It’s 6a.m. and the RA wake up call lulls me out of my sleep. What I wouldn’t give for just 5 more minutes of sleep! Ok, even though I can’t sleep for five minutes, I wake up looking forward to my day at SMASH! Once I finish getting ready, I head to breakfast at Covel Commons. The food is amazing and I want more, but I’ve got to get class. Actually, that’s the perfect way to describe SMASH, everything is so good, you just can’t get enough. As my friends and I head to class, we joke about how much walking there is here at SMASH:UCLA. So many hills! They are beautiful and keep us fit over the five weeks, but we secretly joke everyday about the glorious day we discover a shortcut to our morning classes.
My first class is Biology with Ms. Benitez. I wasn’t really stressed about taking her class because I’d already taken Biology at my high school. I thought I’d just review the same concepts I’d learned earlier my freshman year. I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG! Mrs. Benitez is the most amazing teacher anyone can have. I learned more from her in five weeks than I’d learned in my high school Biology class all year. The labs at SMASH were nothing like any labs I’d done before. The gel electrophoresis lab was my favorite. In that lab, we investigated food dyes found in candies using gel electrophoresis, a technique used in laboratories to investigate DNA, proteins, and other molecules. Now I have much deeper understanding of how candy gets its color and can never look at a bag a Skittles the same way again.
After Biology, it was on to Computer Science class. My teacher, Mr. Casas, introduced us to a computer program called Scratch. I’d never heard of Scratch, but I quickly came to enjoy it. Scratch is a program that allows you to design games using several programming blocks. For our final project (pictured left), we had to design a computer game of our own. I love music so I decided to create a “name that song” quiz game. We had computer science class everyday, but we always learned something which kept this class interesting and fun.
After Computer Science, it was time for Algebra 2. Now I admit, I walked into this class feeling a bit nervous. Math has never been my best subject so I knew I would need extra help over the summer. Mr. Nguyen was so great that I actually WANTED to go to math class! Even though we had challenging quizzes everyday (yes, everyday), I am so glad I took this class. Mr. Nguyen gave awesome advice and helped make my SMASH experience a very challenging one.
After lunch with friends, it was time for my favorite course: The Engineering and Design Challenge, EDC for short. This was easily the most hands-on and innovative class I took over the SMASH summer. Every week we had to design a new project. One week, we made bird feeders from recyclables. Other weeks, we worked with Arduinos. I’d never worked with Arduinos but I learned that using them was a very important part of becoming an Engineer. An arduino is an open-source platform used for building electronics projects. Arduinos consist of both a programmable circuit board (often referred to as a microcontroller) and a piece of software that runs on your computer. Our teachers allowed us to choose any final project we wanted. My partner and I decided to make a keyboard. It came out beautifully and was one of many creative projects in our class.
SMASH classes were great and I always left them feeling excited and thinking about my future. I’m already looking forward to next summer!