The Challenge

Downey Unified School District has 70% of its student population living in poverty and often these students have an opportunity gap. Also, teachers and administrators in Downey understand students lack opportunities but they themselves do not have the time, personal connections or resources to connect to organizations like The National Academy of Sciences, Google, Marvel, or world renowned scientists or experts in their fields.

Our Efforts:

Bayha Group introduced Downey Unified to The Science and Entertainment Exchange (or The Exchange), an entity within The National Academy of Sciences.

For the California Career Pathways Trust Grant, Downey needed employer and industry partners and The Exchange agreed to be a grant partner responsible for creating innovative and fun opportunities for Downey students that connect science and entertainment.


As a result of this collaborative relationship among Downey Unified, Bayha Group, and The Exchange, Downey students have participated in a number of industry tours and special event. One particular event was called the Science of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Exchange arranged for Softbank Robotics to loan one NAO robot to Downey and sent a staff person to teach high school and middle school students how to work with the robot.

This is where having a partner like The Exchange created opportunities for Downey students. The Exchange helps entertainment writers and producers connect to scientists to make sure they get the science “right.” And they create events to have entertainment and scientists learn from each other. One such event was in October 2016 where Marvel, Google and The Exchange partnered to create The Science of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. World renowned scientists would speak about the science behind movies like Ant Man, Doctor Strange, and others Marvel films and people from the entertainment industry also attended. Before that event, Downey students would have an opportunity to visit the special exhibits of Marvel costumes and then they would present to a panel of scientists about what they learned when programming the NAO robot and get NAO to demonstrate what they programmed.

When meeting with the representative from SoftBank Robotics, the students wanted to program the robot to perform iconic poses for five Marvel characters and include music for each pose. The Softbank representative was sceptical the students could achieve this lofty goal. The engineering teacher and his students were not swayed and set out to prove that person wrong. The students with support from their teacher Glenn Yamasaki worked for 12 days straight including a holiday, at night and over the weekend to program NAO to perform poses for Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America. They even used 3-D printers to print Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield. The students exceeded everyone’s expectations. Their programming worked perfectly on NAO and the robot did all 5 poses accompanied with music. The panellists were all impressed and asked the students very difficult questions and they answered eloquently. It was amazing opportunity for adults to see what students are capable of achieving and for students to realize for themselves what they could accomplish, even when others didn’t believe they could.