Celebrating the STEMZONE at Cabrillo Middle School

Last Monday some lucky Cabrillo Middle School students got to combine their artistic talents with those of the San Francisco 49ers in painting a mural on the outside wall of Cabrillo’s 49ers STEM Leadership Institute Chevron STEMZONE.

Designed by Los Altos mural artist Morgan Bricca and commissioned by the 49ers Foundation, the mural features visual representations of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The contours of the mural are the letters S, T, E and M. Each letter encloses whimsical illustrations of that discipline, created and painted by the students and football players. The creativity of the mural, said Bricca, celebrates “what’s most fun about STEM.” And it has a second advantage, “You don’t need a sign.”

The creativity that’s outside reflects the creativity inside the STEMZONE, said 49ers Foundation Executive Director Joanne Pasternak.

The STEMZONE is about engaging with physics and mathematics in tangible ways through familiar metaphors like sports. Design and programming software, robotics kits, and 3D printers let students transform their ideas into physical realities; in the process learning the practical challenges of working in a team and designs that don’t work the way you expect them to.

Creative imagination is part of the equation – for example, the smartphone that “imagined” mobile phones into devices we use for everything from getting directions to watching ballgames on-the-go.

Calling the collaborative art project “an amazing hub of curiosity,” Dr. John York, retired cancer researcher and former 49ers co-owner, said the STEMZONE’s first year was the culmination of a vision that’s growing with the second STEMZONE presently under construction at Santa Clara High School. “We’re here to protect and grow our most valuable resource: our young people,” said York. ”

Students appreciated the opportunity to both literally and figuratively make a ‘mark’ in STEM, as 7th grader Bhasnat put it. Cabrillo Principal Stan Garber is pictured in the mural, “So I’ll stay at Cabrillo forever,” he said.

There was even humor in the finished work, when Silicon Valley Education Foundation President and CEO, Muhammed Chaudhry couldn’t resist the opportunity to add the math joke: “√(-1) 23 Σ π. ”

“I enjoy knowing that it’s going to be here and people are going to see it, and knowing you had a hand in it,” said 8th grader Rishish. “You get to put your heart into this mural,” added another 8th grader, Brendan. Creating the mural “was something for everyone – students, teachers, 49ers.”

Launched in 2014, the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute Chevron STEMZONE is a collaboration of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Chevron, the 49ers Foundation and Santa Clara Unified School District. A six-year curriculum spanning middle and high school, the STEMZONE offers integrated, hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in a state-of-the-art classroom and lab. The program targets advanced students and offers a rigorous curriculum that incudes classes after school on Wednesdays, two Saturdays a month, and three weeks in the summer.