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Supporting Student Success in STEM

Young Engineer and Scientist (YES) Academy

Young Engineer and Scientist (YES) Academy

Established in Fall 2014, the UC Merced YES Academy is an outreach initiative between the UC Merced Fresno Center and the STEM Center. The goal of the YES Academy is to endorse STEM education by connecting UC Merced with local schools. Via demonstrations, lessons and hands-on activities, UC Merced undergraduate students and staff provide academic enrichment and STEM learning opportunities for K-8 students in the San Joaquin Valley. Educational activities are available to all students regardless of socioeconomic status and academic background. Recognizing the need for more females and underrepresented groups in STEM programs and careers, an emphasis is be made to reach out to these students.

The YES team receives a warm welcome in each school and children enjoy working side-by-side with UC Merced students. Survey results and the invitations our undergraduates receive to visit again, clearly demonstrate the success of each event. A sample highlights from one survey of 70 third-grade students from Walnut Grove K-8 school: 

- 73% of students surveyed want to attend college/university when they grow up

- 40% had not heard of UC Merced before our visit

- 89% of students are interested in science and engineering more now than they were before

Activites are scheduled by appointments.

Petia Gueorguieva, PhD, STEM Resource Center, UC Merced,
D. Priscila Villanueva, External Relations & Special Projects Coordinator, UC Fresno Center,

Brandy Ramos Nikaido: As of November 2017, Ms. Nikaido is with UCSF Fresno Center. Thank you, Brandy, for your wonderful 3-year lead for YES Academy!

UC Merced Lead Student Organizations: UC Merced student chapters of STEM-related professional organizations leading the YES Academy outreach: 

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

Society of Physics Students (SPS), a chapter of American Physical Society (APS)

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

Ingenieros Unidos (IU), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)


Solar Energy Association


The MESA Lab


Location: Elementary schools in Merced, Madera, Fresno, Los Banos, and Patterson school districts

Outreach Details:
AY 2014-15: UC Merced’s AIAA and SWE student chapters led two YES Academy visits for second- and fifth-grade students at Riverview (Fresno) and the AIAA student chapter organized a visit for fifth-grade students at Howard (Madera).

AY 2015-16: Our undergraduate students, led by AIAA and IU organizations, visited three elementary schools: fourth-graders at Sheehy (Merced), sixth-graders at Yokomi (Fresno), fifth-graders at Howard (Madera). Chancellor Leland visited Sheehy’s event and was cordially invited by fourth-graders to participate in their activities.

AY 2016-17: Under the lead of SPS, AIAA, and IU students chapters, YES Academy undergraduate volunteers visited the sixth-grade classes at Peterson (Merced), sixth-graders at Lorena Falasco (Los Banos) and second graders at Howard (Madera).

AY 2017-18: YES Academy held its first Open House at UC Merced in November 2017, led by Priscila Villanueva, Petia Gueorguieva and former YES co-coordinator Brandy Nikaido. Undergraduate students attended to learn about YES Academy’s outreach efforts in promoting STEM education and introducing UC Merced to local elementary school students. In February 2018, our students, led by SPS, AIAA, SWE, and IU, performed drone demos and led hands-on Physics experiments to fourth graders at Walnut Grove school in Patterson.

AY 2018-19: In October 2018, YES Academy students led a Science Fair event at Weaver Middle School in Merced, where 5 – 7 grade students performed hands-on experiments and had the opportunity to discuss college success practices with UC Merced students. In February 2019, the Weaver school students visited UC Merced to participate in Kids Day and celebrate Engineering Week. AIAA led-team of UC Merced students hosted the visit and offered a day of educational and fun STEM activities and Central Plant tours. YES Academy students participated in two more.

Facebook Link:

Media coverage:
Los Banos Enterprise: Lorena Falasco
Merced City School District: Peterson
Merced Sun-Star: Sheehy
UC Merced Magazine:
ABC 30: Yokomi
Fresno Unified School District: Yokomi
The Fresno Bee: Riverview
ABC 30: Riverview
The Madera Tribune: Howard
Patterson Joint Unified School District: Walnut Grove
Engineering Week Kids Day: UC Merced
UC Merced Newsroom: Pioneer Elementary School
El Capitan High School visit to UC Merced: El Capitan School Visit