IEEE K-12 Education Outreach Initiative – USC Viterbi

Students from STEM Academy of Hollywood and Reseda Charter HS learned about Signal and Image Processing (Photo Credit: Wendy Wooten)

On April 20th 2022, over 100 students from STEM Academy of Hollywood and Reseda Charter High School visited USC’s campus to receive hands-on experience with signal processing and introduce them for careers in engineering. This K-12 Education Outreach Initiative was put together by the Ming Hsieh Institute (MHI) in collaboration with the USC Viterbi’s K-12 STEM Center and support from the IEEE Signal Processing Society.

The IEEE Signal Processing Society provided a grant to fund this K-12 outreach program. “Its goal is to educate K-12 students on how signal processing is an area of engineering that many do not realize plays a significant and ubiquitous role in our day to day lives,” explains Shri Narayanan, University Professor and Niki and Max Chair in Engineering and the coordinating faculty of this initiative. This effort focuses specifically on encouraging BIPOC middle and high school students in the Los Angeles Area.

“I would have benefitted from a program like this when I was still a high-school student deciding on my undergraduate major,” said Justin Haldar, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and one of the faculty participants in the program. “I had a very limited understanding of what Electrical and Computer Engineering really was, and I had zero exposure to signal processing. It’s very rewarding to help show the magic of signal processing to students at a much earlier stage, while also showing them that the advanced technologies that support our modern way of life are developed by ordinary people just like them.”

To help support the initiative, a high school teacher advisory board with six members from the LA area was established. This board was created to conceptualize and receive feedback on how to approach the creation and sharing of signal processing ideas and applications to high school students in the most effective and exciting way.

 “It was an honor and pleasure working with everyone in USC’s Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering including Cathy, Shri, Richard, Tim, and Max. From getting together virtually in the Fall with the IEEE team to refining the curriculum and implementing it, it was a joy and tremendous learning experience,” said David Trachtenberg, a teacher at STEM Academy of Hollywood and a member of the teacher advisory board.  “Our students were treated to a VIP field trip experience at USC that included in-depth demonstrations at 3 different labs! It was also wonderful partnering with Ms. Wooten and getting to meet so many of her students in person.” During the campus visit, the high school students worked on labs that focus on deepfake technology, music, and medical imaging. With the help of USC professors and high school teachers, USC students created hands-on demonstrations illustrating various types of signal processing of audio, video, and biosignals.

This event was initially envisioned to spark interest in engineering through signal processing – technologies present in all aspects of everyday life from entertainment and interaction to business and healthcare. For example, signal processing in music allows programs such as Spotify to recommend music to people’s liking. Signal processing in deepfake technologies can be used to both create synthetic game experiences while at the same time helping to deter malicious fake content that is often spread in social media. In medical imaging, signal processing plays an invaluable role in looking into the human body and in improving disease detection and classification. This outreach program introduced students to these exemplary uses of signal processing hoping to inspire them to consider being future creators of similar technologies.

“Having this opportunity to tell our signal processing stories not only allows us to inspire high school students to consider STEM careers, but it offers our undergraduate and graduate student ambassadors a broader context to their own educational experience”,  said Narayanan.

The K-12 Education Outreach Initiative engages a broad audience that includes not only the K-12 students who participated but also students right here at USC who were instrumental in developing the online modules. Undergraduates, recruited through IEEE Signal Processing Society K-12 Outreach info sessions, collaborated with PhD students to create and share the in-person demonstrations for the on-campus visit.

USC Viterbi and the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are planning to hold another event in the Fall which will include the campus tour and other technology demonstration modules. This date is still to be determined. You may use the website link here to find out more information and to find out when a date is announced.






Published on July 8th, 2022

Last updated on July 8th, 2022