Harker students organize Opportunity X science fair to showcase middle schoolers’ projects


Arely Sun

Middle schooler Ben Lee explains his project to Alice Feng (9). He explored the properties of prisms.

by Arely Sun, Reporter

Students of Opportunity X, a student-founded program that teaches students at underprivileged schools about science research, gathered in the Dr. Roberto Cruz Alum Rock Branch Library community center to share their projects at the program’s first science fair on May 25. The participants had been working on their projects for four to five months at their respective schools.

Opportunity X was founded by Cynthia Chen (11), a Harker student, and Saint Francis High School junior Adishree Ghatare. They sought to bring STEM opportunities to underrepresented groups.

Cynthia, the founder and CEO of Opportunity X, explained the source of inspiration for this science program.

“The main motivation behind me and Adishree starting this program was because at a lot a science fairs, we noticed that there weren’t a lot of students from low-income, underrepresented neighborhoods, so we wanted to increase exposure and interest in these areas,” she said.

The program’s four branches are at Morrill Middle School, River Glen Middle School, KIPP Heartwood Academy and Ace Esperanza Middle School. Many students in these schools are from low income families.

Every week, Opportunity X mentors visit their assigned schools and teach them about different aspects of science through interactive labs. For example, at the beginning of the program, students extracted DNA from strawberries.

Throughout the program, participants have created their own science projects to present at their science fair. Some students even brought their projects to the local Synopsys science fair. Opportunity X has fostered an interest for science research in each of the students.

“My son Ben has really found a voice, and he loves science. I think it’s kind of developed his passion for science,” said Mary Joe Lee, a mother of one of the participants of Opportunity X. “I think that is a great way for kids at the same school to also bond around a common interest.”

The partipants’ parents are grateful this novel program and the opportunities it has brought for their children.

“I think it’s a great program for our middle school, and it brings out their interest in science with the collaboration of the teachers and the students. They let the kids find their own interests and passions. I find that to be extremely interesting, especially that its led by high school students who were probably in their position awhile ago,” said Roya Alexander, another mother of one of the participants.

At the Opportunity X science fair, participants presented their projects to judges and parents. Afterwards, two keynote speakers presented to an attentive audience.

Electrical engineer, educator and inventor Bob Zeidman explained the function of various electronic devices such as transistors, resistors and capacitors. Dr. Chakrapani Kalyanaraman, an associate researcher at the University of San Francisco, spoke about different aspects of proteins.

At the end of the event, mentors presented awards to the students. Rising seventh graders Aldo Carmonan and Jonathan Miranda Lopez from KIPP Heartwood Middle School won first place for their project on the effects of video games on reaction time.

Aldo and Jonathan are both extremely grateful for his experience at Opportunity X as it has given him a new perspective in the STEM field. “[These opportunities] brought me to bring out crazy ideas and experiment on them,” Aldo said.

Christal Camacho Infante, a seventh grader at Morrill Middle School, feels similarly about Opportunity X. She chose to create a miniature rover similar to the ones used on Mars.

“I feel like this program has taught me that you can never be [too] young to build something or make something interesting that other people would love to see,” Christal said. “I think I want to continue doing science and research in the future. I really like it.”