Name: Romalyn Mirador
Host Site: San Jose State University, Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS)
Alma Mater: San Jose State University
Major: Aerospace Engineering
Background: For my senior design project, I was part of the Technical Educational Satellite (TechEdSat) -3P team. TechEdSat-3P was a 3U CubeSat that was deployed from the International Space Station (ISS). One of the main missions of the satellite was to test the deorbiting device called the “exo-brake.” I provided documentation that ensures the beacon aboard the satellite caused no harmful transmission interference and that the satellite would not collide with the ISS. I also provided an orbital debris assessment report to make sure the satellite would burn up upon reentry. I was also a part of Sigma Gamma Tau as Liaison Officer and helped plan events and lead workshops. Outside of school, I was a tutor and part-time proctor which helped me pay off my tuition fees. Currently I am working on my Masters in Aerospace Engineering and serving as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA).
Why I serve: The first time I heard about AmeriCorps was through my professor and advisor, Dr. Mourtos.
After doing some research and reading through the job description, I became really interested. The job was going to be at my alma mater and San Jose State’s College of Engineering Dean wanted to start a program called Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS). I read up on EPICS and found out that it was a successful program that started in Purdue in 1995. The program gives undergraduates a chance to gain valuable design and building experiences while helping solve community-identified needs. This program was a chance for students to learn, gain experience and provide community service at the same time – something I haven’t seen before and would have liked to have had in my education. Being a VISTA meant that I could help start up a program that not only gives students a better educational experience, but also helps out the local community.
Ah-ha moment: One of my Ah-ha moments came while I was researching EPICS projects. I had never really thought about what kind of engineering-based needs the local community would have. When I thought about community service, I usually thought about the usual things: volunteering in food banks, cleaning up parks and beaches, tutoring, etc. What kind of engineering projects would be needed to do community service? Turns out, there are a lot of projects – I just had to find the right people to speak with. I never saw how engineering could be closely connected to community service until I started reading about EPICS projects around the country and hearing about community needs and what could be done about them.
Legacy: About ten years ago, SJSU introduced EPICS to its students. While it could have prospered, it did not stay in the curriculum and since has not been brought up again – until now. The Dean of College of Engineering placed EPICS back onto SJSU’s agenda and the pilot year has been progressing well. So far, I have been helping with the curriculum and finding ways to keep the class going. What I hope to do is to leave a successful and sustainable EPICS program at San Jose State. I can’t wait for the day to hear about San Jose State EPICS students solving problems around the community. I would like to be able to go around San Jose and see the impact the EPICS students have left on the community whether it be helping with homeless issues, restoring watersheds or finding greener solutions to transportation. I would like to come back to San Jose State, speak with the students and see how many more projects they come up with. At the end of my service year, I hope that people will think about how the CSU STEM VISTA program can be beneficial for students and for communities.