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Engineering Service Learning Partners with Fresno Discovery Center 

November 16, 2020

In collaboration with Fresno Discovery Center, the Unmanned Aerial Systems Service Learning team is to develop a hands-on exhibit to bring awareness to the effects of climate change. In this Q&A, the Center’s newest Executive Director, Melissa Telemeco, offers insight into her experience and expectations in working with Engineering Service Learning.  

The Engineering Service Learning (EngSL) program has a long-established relationship with local education centers, and students have developed many interactive labs and projects to help young students understand topics such as plate tectonics, kinematics, and velocity. Through EngSL’s partnership with Fresno Discovery Center, our students hope to build an engaging, hands-on exhibit to demonstrate the effects of climate change on permafrost.  

COVID-19 has drastically impacted higher education and small businesses, prompting the UC system go towards remote learning and limiting the number of visitors in public spaces such as movie theaters, shopping centers, and learning centers. Despite these challenges, EgSL students continue to be determined to give back to their communities.  

Telemeco shares her insights into overcoming the current hurdles and gives us a good look at the Discovery Center’s future goals: 

What interested you into taking the position as the executive director? 

“I love informal science education. It's so fun and rewarding. I joined the Board of Directors for Fresno Discovery Center soon after I moved to Fresno. It's an amazing place and our Board was working to make it better. When the position for Executive Director became available, I had to seize the opportunity!” 

How has the pandemic affected any plans this year? 

“The COVID closure hit science centers very hard, and we are no exception. It's estimated that 1/3 of science centers might close this year. Our main source of revenue was field trips, but we had to close before our field trips really started this year. COVID has certainly been our biggest challenge yet.” 

What are some of the changes that have been implemented to the learning center since you’ve become director? 

“We have started new programming so guests of all ages can look forward to at least one facilitated activity every day we are open. We are just reopening after the COVID closure, so stay tuned!” 

Why did you choose to partner with Engineering Service Learning? 

“We partner with a lot of Service Learning classes. As an informal science institution, we feel it our duty to help our community especially in education for all ages. When you think about it, Service Learning classes are a university equivalent to our hands-on activities for youngsters. They teach basic principles and show how they are used in the real world—and they're fun! We love helping out and we are excited to see your ideas.” 

What are your expectations in working with Engineering Service Learning? 

“I expect I'll learn a lot from you. As someone who has been working in informal science institutions for a while, I can definitely say one of the best parts of working with universities is that I always learn something new. After meeting with the class and hearing the well thought out questions, I also expect we'll see a very cool exhibit that will help whole families learn together. I can't wait!” 

Which exhibit at the learning center is your personal favorite? Why? 

“I think my two favorites are probably not exhibits. I love the facilitated STEM activities. Watching kids learn how a motor works and making their own with household supplies is like magic to me. And, of course, I love all the animals. I have a soft spot for reptiles, and we have a lot of them!”