Teen Engineering Major to Graduate from Cal State LA, begin Work at a Pasadena Environmental Design Firm



Alexis Kam. Photo by Ty Washington/Cal State LA

Alexis Kam dreams of building cities of the future, where sustainable design helps create a healthy, productive environment.

The 17-year-old Kam will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at Cal State LA. In August, she will begin the next step in her life as a design engineer with a Pasadena firm experienced in environmental design.

“Through innovative design and sustainable engineering,” Kam says, “I can help make the world a better place or help improve people’s lives.”

Her ambition is to design energy-efficient buildings to make cities and communities more sustainable. With climate change and global warming, Kam says she has a responsibility to use her design skills to help raise awareness about energy conservation and other environmental issues.

Kam is the youngest graduate in Cal State LA’s Class of 2020. She was 12 years old when she enrolled at the university through the Early Entrance Program. The program, which has accepted highly gifted students as young as 11 years old, is administered by the Honors College.

As a child, Kam considered becoming a doctor and pursuing a career in health care, but she later realized she could help people and still make a difference in other ways.

At Cal State LA, she worked part-time as a machine shop/mechanical design assistant and as an instructional student assistant for two statics courses.

Kam also participated in the university’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle project. The vehicle is a small robotic submarine designed to navigate underwater obstacle courses.

Kam credits Cal State LA for providing opportunities that enabled her to grow as a student and launch her on a successful career path.

“Cal State LA has taught me to be more well-rounded and resilient, especially being a female in a field that is majority male,” she says. “The environment in my department is super collaborative. I really enjoy the opportunity to interact with students and faculty from diverse background and experiences.”

For her senior project, she led a team of four Cal State LA students in designing a small-scale office building for energy efficiency research. The project aimed to reduce energy usage by testing different wall materials and configurations, as well as to maximize the efficiency of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

“Alexis is an outstanding student and her undergraduate records can easily corroborate it,” says Professor Arturo Pacheco-Vega, who was Kam’s faculty advisor on the senior design project. “More importantly, she has an outstanding attitude—in terms of her commitment, sense of responsibility, and discipline. That is crucial to achieve success.”

A Dean’s List student, Kam is a recipient of a Boeing Student Scholarship, an Elliott R. Barton Scholarship, a Theodore W. Nye and Ann M. Nye Scholarship, and a STEM Advantage Scholarship.

She also volunteered for Heal the Bay and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands, working on projects to help keep coastal waters safe and clean.

Kam helped start the Association for Women in Science at Cal State LA, which she says is one of her major accomplishments. As a member of the organization’s executive board, she encouraged students who were women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). They organized presentations and workshops and participated in networking and career and research opportunities.

“Our goal is to get more young women interested in STEM and to see themselves as future engineers or scientists,” says Kam, who is considering applying to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in engineering with a focus on sustainable design.

For now, Kam is looking forward to her next challenge. She will begin working as a design engineer at ACCO Engineered Systems in Pasadena, where she can pursue her ambition of building a more sustainable future.

California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 28,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.

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