Tsachy Weissman’s mentorship sparks entirely new research
His group is exploring how engineering projects benefit when the human element is explicitly incorporated.
A collaboration on image compression between researchers and three high school students found human-powered image sharing proved more effective than an algorithm's work. Professor Tsachy Weissman realized the algorithm had hundreds of thousands of human engineering hours, but didn't include human-centric factors that three high schoolers had.
This was the seed for STEM to SHTEM– an internship program for high school students whose various backgrounds, brings tremendous benefit to the research collaboration.
The STEM to SHTEM program kicked off in 2019.
All of the projects from summer 2019 are included in the "Journal for High Schoolers" which was produced by last year's interns and mentors. Several projects have resulted in papers submitted to scholarly journals, with one planning to be presented at the Human-Robot Interaction Conference in spring. The work also lives on in new collaborations between other research groups who may have remained unacquainted if not for STEM to SHTEM.
Professor Weissman, PhD candidates Cindy Nguyen and Kedar Tatwawadi are currently figuring out what workshops and presentations they and their colleagues can give to the interns this summer. Their goal is to offer sessions that are educational, fun and encouraging.
"During the process of designing what the program would look like, I thought about my experiences as a high school intern and as a first-generation, low-income undergraduate," said Cindy Nguyen (EE PhD candidate). "Being able to give other students the opportunity that I had is such a privilege."
With the program open for applications, the team hopes to draw broad interest from students – including those who lack confidence in their STEM skills, whose talents lie outside STEM or who aren't yet sure about their future academic plans after high school. The program also offers some financial support to students who would otherwise be unable to participate.
"We aim to give every student a taste of the college adventure," said Kedar Tatwawadi (EE PhD candidate). "It could inspire them to take that adventure on and, perhaps, they will even go for graduate studies."
2019 mentors and collaborators included producer and director Devon Baur, sketch artist Frank Hom, and professors Srabanti Chowdhury, Subhasish Mitra, Dorsa Sadigh, Debbie Senesky and Gordon Wetzstein, and the members of their labs.
Note on COVID-19 and STEM to SHTEM program: We plan to proceed with the program for the time being. If needed, we intend to take the program fully online (e.g. weekly lectures via video, mentoring meetings online, etc.) and possibly adapt the start and end date of the program to fit the summer schedules of high schools that are currently dismissed.
- Journal for High Schoolers in 2019 (The Informaticists)
- Excerpted from Stanford News "High school interns inspire new research paths at Stanford," March 2020.