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Science Empowerment Initiative

SSF Science Empowerment Initiative: Helix Cup Challenge | April 16, 2021 10:00AM – 12:00PM PT

Tune in anytime between 10:00AM PT- 12:00PM PT for the live stream coverage of the Egg Drop as student prototypes are put to the ultimate test by their teachers! (Passcode: 545690)

The Helix Cup science and engineering challenge builds excitement, self-confidence and the ability to “do science” for every 8th grader in the South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD).

This annual competition explores the importance and difficulties of delivering healthcare and medicine where it’s needed; students design solutions to potential barriers such as delivering medicines to remote areas. The challenge gives students an opportunity to apply standards-aligned curriculum in a fun, creative format that also helps develop skills such as creativity, problem solving and teamwork.

With the creation of the South San Francisco Science Empowerment Initiative (SEI), CLSI partnered with Genentech to open up the Helix Cup to neighboring life sciences companies. Helix Cup is a signature program of Futurelab, Genentech’s commitment to science education in partnership with SSF public schools.

This spring, volunteers from SSF life science companies are working with SSFUSD 8th grade students to help them think through their prototype design for an egg-drop and present their learnings and provide feedback on final presentations. Coaches are encouraging and directing students’ efforts to problem solve as they hit snags, and serving as positive role models as they share what’s inspired them in their life journey. Judges will score final student presentations as part of the competition score.

The South San Francisco Science Empowerment Initiative (SEI)

The South San Francisco Science Empowerment Initiative (SEI) brings together South San Francisco-based life science companies who are committed to inspiring and developing the next generation of science professionals who attend school just miles away from the regional birthplace of biotech. Nearly 30% of students in SSFUSD are English language learners, more than 40% are from low-income families, and only 1-in-3 attends a 4-year university.

In November of 2019, recognizing that students in their own backyard might never be exposed to nor prepared for rewarding careers in the life science industry, eight companies stepped forward to join the Genentech-led Helix Cup, part of the company’s K-12 Futurelab partnership with SSFUSD that has generated a 73% increase in student interest in science. The SEI pilot drew 60 volunteers from Allogene, Merck, Myokardia, Nkarta, RAPT, Sutro, Theravance, and Verily, who served as coaches in the competition that guides middle school student teams through real-world science challenges. Building on this pilot, the SSF Science Empowerment Initiative seeks to grow the pool of life science companies participating in industry-academic collaborations that will inspire more underrepresented students to pursue STEM careers. By co-developing talent with neighboring schools, such partnerships both create access to the rewarding careers in the industry and help diversify the industry’s talent pipeline.