STEM educator to bring inspiration, education


University Communications

STEM educator Fredi Lajvardi will speak at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Performance Center.

Carmen Stoen enjoys hearing other’s stories and drawing inspiration from them.

“I think it’s always helpful to hear someone else’s story and learn from others so I think it’s a good way to gain some encouragement for yourself,”  said Stoen, the director of student development. 

USI will continue its Knowledge for Life Speaker Series with Fredi Lajvardiat 6 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the Performance Center. 

A different speaker comes to campus each semester for the Knowledge for Life Speaker Series to talk to students and broaden their perspectives on the world. The Student Development Program picks different speakers overlapping different colleges and areas of study to show life long learning and how what you learn in school connects to the real world. 

Lajvardi is a nationally recognized science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educator who leads his team of disadvantaged teenagers in a university-level competition and defeats leading schools according to Keppler Speakers, the agency that Lajvardi works for.

The team’s victory inspired “Underwater Dreams,” a documentary about a robotics team from Carl Hayden High School, Arizona. It captures the road to success for the sons of mexican immigrants who learned how to build robots from scratch and go on to be national champions. 

“Underwater Dreams” was also adapted into a major motion picture, “Spare Parts.” A movie called “Big Dreams” came out in 2017 and featured Lajvardi’s Falcon Robotics team. 

“I know students have lectures, classes, assignments, and all of those kinds of things and taking time out to do something else is like one more thing, but sometimes I think we miss out on those opportunities and what we will gain from that hour,” Stoen said. “So I think students will find him engaging and inspirational no matter what their field of study is.”

Assistant Director of Student Development Jennifer Garrison found Lajvardi through recommendations and was intrigued by his story of him working with a high school robotics team and thinks there’s a lot more to the message of the story than just success.

“His story really intrigued me in a sense that he’s an educator and helping create a robotics team, so there’s an engineering aspect to that and working in Arizona with a primarily Hispanic population which is so different than what we see here in Evansville, Indiana,” Garrison said. “So with the diversity aspect, there’s just a lot of things that make his message something that will resonate with our students.”