The Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair is the world’s largest global science competition for high school students. As you might imagine, the competition would not be possible without the hard work of thousands of dedicated volunteers and judges. As we approach ISEF 2024 in Los Angeles this May, we will post a series of interviews introducing you to some of these talented and dedicated individuals—and hopefully offer a glimpse into the diverse and enriching volunteer experiences that contribute to the success of this event.
For this installment, let’s meet Jennifer Lashley of Los Angeles. Jennifer serves as the Executive Director of SoLA Robotics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth of color to develop technological skills, guiding them toward STEM career pathways and building community with one another. Additionally, Jennifer is an active member of Regeneron ISEF’s Los Angeles Local Arrangements Committee, which is instrumental in organizing and facilitating the fair each year.
Can you tell us a little about SoLA Robotics and what you do?
SoLA Robotics began as a response to the lack of high-quality, ongoing, hands-on STEM/Robotics instruction available to students in South L.A. and Watts. Since 2019, SoLA Robotics has trained over 8,000 students and educators through coding and robotics workshops and hosted several competitive robotics teams competitions locally and globally. We currently teach robotics, coding, animation, 3D modeling and photogrammetry. We also host an annual youth and family conference, Sola CON, as well as an annual robotics competition, the SoLA Youth Showdown.
You’re also part of the LA STEM Collective, a group of STEM organizations working together to provide quality learning experiences, opportunities and resources for area students. What makes Los Angeles such a special place for STEM?
L.A. is an amazing place for STEM because you can find a connection to or an expert for practically anything! The potential is so limitless and there are exciting new initiatives popping up all the time. It’s like being in the center of all the action, and there is a lot of support for reaching your goals. Networking and community are very important and very present.
Last year was your first time volunteering at Regeneron ISEF—what was that experience like? Any favorite memories?
Volunteering at Regeneron ISEF was an enlightening experience. There’s something special about being surrounded by so much youth potential, especially as an educator who wants a bright future for all my students. The highlight of last year’s event was having the opportunity to speak to several of the finalists as I assisted them with preparing their Finalist Talks on Education Outreach Day. As a Room Leader, I had time to really chat with each finalist, learn more about their research and gain an understanding of what it takes for a high school student to reach that level.
What are you most looking forward to at Regeneron ISEF this year?
I look forward to seeing the interactions and smiling faces from young scholars around the world. I especially look forward to talking with them, allowing them to share their areas of expertise and letting them know how much I appreciate their work in science.
Why would you encourage others to volunteer at Regeneron ISEF this year?
Volunteering at Regeneron ISEF is an experience I highly recommend. It’s a special experience and unique from all other fairs I’ve seen. I consider it a privilege to assist these intelligent young minds who will be our STEM leaders, innovators and game changers one day soon.
We are looking for volunteers for this year’s competition! If you’re interested in joining us in Los Angeles, check out our open volunteer opportunities.