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Future Engineer Merges Academic Passion with Community Service

October 30, 2009

Future Engineer Merges Academic Passion with Community Service

Joshua Gonzales describes himself as a voracious reader. But with his list of activities and interests, the UC Merced
sophomorecould also be easily described as a voracious “doer.”

In addition to taking a full load of classes, the
majoris involved in a number of pursuits. He’s an active member of one of the School of Engineering’s
Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS)teams, participates in the
InterVarsity Christian Fellowshipclub and, recently, Gonzales helped establish a new
roboticsclub on campus.

“My time at UC Merced has opened me up to a lot of experiences,” said Gonzales, 19.

Gonzales spends the majority of his time working with his EPICS team, which he’s been a part of since his freshman year.  The team, called
Get Science, Engineering and Technology (Get S.E.T.), works with the Merced County Office of Education to develop supplementary science curriculum for elementary school students.

Last semester, team members made about 50 classroom visits to local schools. Gonzales and his colleagues developed fun projects that would pique the young students’ interest in science.

“I really like working with the kids,” said Gonzales, whose engineering emphasis is
materials science. “Whenever it’s time to do a classroom visit, I try to be there. Our group tries to build a relationship with the kids and get the students excited about learning.”

One project Gonzales and his colleagues came up with involved teaching thermodynamics - a branch of physics that deals with the relationships and conversions between heat and other energy forms. The students learned about the topic by making homemade ice cream using only raw ingredients, ice, salt, plastic food-storage bags and their hands.

The Get S.E.T. team has also explored having students build guitars out of PVC pipe materials and design rockets. The team is required to meet once a week for two hours but often, they exceed that.

“Sometimes we meet as many as three times a week,” he said. “It’s surprising how much extra work we want to put in because it’s really fun.”

Gonzales has always been a go-getter when it comes to self-learning. He and his family moved to the United States from the Philippines in 2005 and he was home-schooled by his parents.

“Growing up, I loved science, math and literature,” he said. “Those were my passions.”

He enrolled in Los Banos High School as a junior and graduated in 2008. One of the reasons he was drawn to UC Merced was the intimate feel of the campus. “I wanted to be able to have access to faculty,” he said. “It’s great that I’m able to talk to and interact with my professors. Once, one of the professors here gave me a tour of his lab. Students would not have that opportunity at other campuses.”

After he earns his bachelor’s degree, Gonzales said he plans to take the LSAT and will consider pursing a
master’s degreeand possibly a Ph.D.

“My experience here at UC Merced has put me in touch with good people and opportunities,” he said. “I’ve gained a lot of leadership, team work and teaching experience. I’m not the same person I was in high school.”