Our mission is to use science, technology and engineering to develop persistent curiosity and to show that knowledge is empowering.
Jenna Blanton, Director of Communications and Program Development
A native of Michigan, Jenna graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Environmental Science and Organizational Communication. Soon thereafter she began working for Disability Network Southwest Michigan, a non-profit that provides training and technical assistance to the public. The time she spent working there changed the course of her life. From that point forward Jenna knew that whatever she did she wanted it to be meaningful not only for herself but for others as well. As an AmeriCorps VISTA at the California Conservation Corps (CCC) she lived under the motto “Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions…and more!”, and loved every moment of it. Her time with the CCC was a great experience that allowed her to make a positive impact on the lives of thousands of underserved young adults. She brings to Iridescent this same attitude and enthusiasm.
Luz Rivas, Director of Research and Corporate Partnerships, Iridescent Los Angeles
Luz has a background in engineering, STEM curriculum development, program management, and educational research. Most recently, she was the Director of Academic Programs at the Infrastructure Academy, an organization that integrates an environmental focus in STEM education. Prior to this, she was the Assistant Director of the Caltech Center for Diversity, where she managed educational outreach, recruitment, and retention programs for underrepresented students interested in pursuing science and engineering careers. Prior to joining Caltech, Luz was a research associate at the EDC Center for Children and Technology, where she worked on an NSF-funded project on data-use in schools and on an evaluation of an online professional development program for teachers. Before EDC, she worked for the American Museum of Natural History on a NASA-funded project that produced afterschool science curriculum units based on NASA resources. She started her career as an electrical engineer at Motorola working on the design of an automotive navigation product. Luz attended Los Angeles public schools where she first became interested in engineering and computer science as a fifth-grader after learning to program in Logo. She’s excited to be working for an organization that is engaging children in engineering. Luz has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from MIT and a Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Amy Jager, High School Explainers Program Manager
Amy received a degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn University and earned a master’s degree in meteorology from Mississippi State University. Her true talents and passion were found in her ability to share her love, enthusiasm and knowledge of science and engineering with others. Often, people told Amy “engineering is too hard. I can’t do it.” She disagreed and wanted to prove that engineering is fun and that anyone can do it with hard work, dedication, and confidence! She began her career at the Maryland Science Center where she developed and implemented STEM related school programs, professional development workshops for educators, and live programs for NOAA’s Science on a Sphere. She continued her career as the Explainers Program Coordinator at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum before joining Iridescent. Amy joined Iridescent because she believes that there is no better person to teach children about engineering than actual engineers!
Jose Medina, Parent Leader Coordinator
Jose first came to Iridescent with his family. Jose, his wife, and his three kids, Joycelyn(7), Delilah(7), and Valerie (3) participated in Family Science. Jose was so dedicated that he was offered a job running Iridescent’s Los Angeles Parent Leadership Program. Jose intends to to pursue a degree in civil engineering at Cal State LA in the fall. He has lived in LA for 22 years and graduated from Manual Arts High School. Jose studied at American Career College and was certified in medical billing and coding. He handled claim tracking, denial management, and claim auditing.
Paige Teamey, Director of Engineering Education
A native of Oregon, Paige graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in both physics and environmental science. While Paige was in college she had the opportunity to work at a local middle school through an NSF grant and from there began focusing on science education. Upon graduation Paige worked for a non-profit education company, The Odyssey Project sailing on a tall ship and communicating with students throughout Europe and Japan where she realized she wanted to become a full time high school science teacher. Paige received her masters in science education from The City college and has taught the last seven years in a transfer high school in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn while participating as a S.T.E.M. fellow for the New York Hall of Science and performing research at Columbia University in nanotechnology.
Paige’s beliefs: Education unites as well as inspires a voice, an insight, and a quality of life that should be an equal right for all. Regardless of our pursuits we must invest in our communities where we can be producers of knowledge and recipients of change. Empowering youth through community partnerships will enable children and allow new visions, opportunities and a more realistic future of self-perpetuating sustainable technology.
Paige’s ultimate goal in the seven years she taught in Brooklyn was for her students to be impassioned and adhere to the following quote stated by George Washington Carver: “The ability to foresee, visualize, and create your idea in your mind is the most powerful resource you have.”
Ideas change with access to engaging learning and imaginative thinking. She looks forward to working with Iridescent and continually advocating for excellent education accessible to all. She hopes to facilitate and inspire a deeper understanding and connection to science education with youth as well as help children build healthy ideals that allow them to be dynamic citizens as future adults.
Bobby Zacharias, Director of Educational Programs
Bobby Zacharias has had a lifelong interest in science and engineering. Tinkering from a young age in the basement, he has a hard time spending less than an hour in a hardware store. He came to Iridescent from the museum field, where he focused on visitor engagement, and is always excited to help others understand and question the world around them. He believes sincerely in the power of bicycles, the always-impressive tensile strength of steel, and in the illimitable enthusiasm and neuroplasticity of the engaged curious mind!
Kevin Miklasz, Director of Digital Curriculum Kevin comes from a back ground in and love for science. Kevin received a PhD in Biology from Stanford University, during which he spent 4 years volunteering with Iridescent as a scientist. Kevin’s passion for communicating science was really unlocked by Iridescent during those 4 years of volunteering, and he is thrilled to continue pursuing that passion by working for Iridescent. Kevin is motivated by three principles: 1) most science content can be understood by most everyone, if presented in the right way by the scientist and received in the right mindset by the audience. Most barriers to understanding are related to technical jargon and abstract reasoning, rather than anything inherent in the science. 2) There is a gap between what most people view as science, and how science is actually practiced by scientists. This “science literacy” gap can be bridged by exposing students to genuine scientific practice and practicing scientists. 3) Kids (and adults) voluntarily spend hundreds of hours learning how to play games. The game industry has in 30 years succeeded in doing what the educational industry has failed to do in 300- make learning engaging and self-sustaining. Kevin wants to explore how games and gamified learning structures can fulfill traditional roles in education. Most of all, Kevin appreciates Iridescent’s open approach to finding the best teaching method possible, rather than simply the best methods that work in a traditional, standards-constrained classroom.
AnnaLise Hoopes, Director of Educational and Corporate Partnerships
AnnaLise holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Studio Art from the University of Notre Dame, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University, and a California teaching credential. In 2005, she founded a community-based organization called Teach Compassion, which brought university students into over 50 classrooms in ten regional schools to teach children about social and environmental justice issues. She then taught elementary school for two years in the Albany Unified School District before joining Iridescent in 2010. AnnaLise hopes to use her pedagogical background to provide young women the support and mentorship they need to be confident and successful in the high-tech fields.
Dr. Angelica Torres, Senior Director of Technovation Challenge
Angélica first became acquainted with STEM while working in a kindergarten classroom as a NSF GK-12 graduate fellow. Angélica shares Iridescent and Technovation Challenge’s vision of blurring the boundaries between industry, higher education, and K-12 classrooms to inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs and computer scientists. She completed a Ph.D. /M.Phil. in Biological Anthropology and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Child Study at Yale University and B.A. in Anthropology at New College of Florida.
Tara Chklovski, Founder, CEO, Iridescent
Tara brings STEM content knowledge and executive administration abilities to the effort. She has previously worked as the principal at a 300 student K-6 school in India. She has consistently and cost-effectively doubled Iridescent’s impact every year by heavily relying on technology, synergistic partnerships, rigorous evaluation and volunteers.
Motto: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting stronger and faster.” – Santilhano
Mariana Rutigliano, Dissemination Director
Mariana has a degree in Social Communication from Universidade Catolica de Santos, Brazil. She brings to Iridescent a 6 years experience in Marketing and Communication for the consumer goods industry in the global company Unilever. She decided to gave her career a different path when she moved from São Paulo to Los Angeles to study Global Sustainability, at UCLA, with the objective to orientate her skills to a more meaningful objective. She found at Iridescent the perfect opportunity to spread the message that knowledge is powerful for million students around the world and support them in finding a different life perspective.
Cristiano Meira, Producer
With 10 years of experience in the production of commercial films and video clips in São Paulo, Brazil, Cristiano has worked in several areas of the movie industry from the set to the post-production. He moved to Los Angeles to learn new visual effects techniques and software at the Gnomon School. Currently, he works for the Hollywood movie industry at Post Mango studio. Passionate about image and motion, Cristiano knows how powerful it can be. He wants to apply the cinema enchantment to support Iridescent’s video library and help kids to find the pleasure of learning.
Dr. Timothy Chklovski is Chief Scientist at Factual. He brings start-up and management experience through his role as the founder and CEO of aQuery, a document understanding company which has attracted top-tier venture capital backing and employed a large development team. Dr. Chklovski has graduated from MIT with a PhD in Computer Science and also holds M.Eng and Baccalaureate degrees from MIT in Computer Science, as well as Baccalaureate in Math.
Elyssa Elbaz manages the Elbaz Family Foundation, which supports environmental and educational causes. She is a former Assistant United States Attorney, where she was a member of the Violent and Organized Crime division. Prior to working as a prosecutor, she worked for the law firm of O’Melveny and Myers and clerked for a federal judge. She has also worked as a journalist for a number of newspapers and wire services in Los Angeles. Elyssa has a bachelor’s degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Claremont McKenna College and a Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law. She serves on the following non-profit boards: the UCLA Law Alumni Board, the Claremont McKenna College Center for Human Rights Leadership, Whole Child Foundation, and X Prize (as the ethics chairperson). She is also a partner of Los Angeles Social Venture Partners.
Eva Ho As the VP of Marketing and Operations at Factual, Eva manages all aspects of the brand, insides sales, HR and finance. In 2008, she co-founded Navigating Cancer, a website and tools that empower cancer patients to navigate their best care. She is also very active in the non-profit sector, founding Whole Child LA in 2008, a community pediatric pain clinic, and sits on the board of First Descents and Iridescent. Prior, she was a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Google and Youtube for 5 years. Prior to Google, Eva was the head of marketing for Applied Semantics, a company that was sold to Google in 2003. Additional past employers include The Wilkerson Group, Procter & Gamble and IBM. Eva holds an MBA from the Cornell University Johnson School of Management as well as an AB in Biology from Harvard University.
Eva has a strong passion for providing underserved children, especially girls, with the knowledge base and toolset to become brilliant, capable, well-rounded engineers and scientists. When she saw firsthand the impact of Iridescent through the science centers and Technovation Challenge, it was a no-brainer to dedicate more energy and time behind this ultra-critical mission. She feels strongly that creative and effective STEM education to more children will be one of the key pillars that will drive accelerated innovation in the US and beyond. She is honored to be part of this amazing organization.
Donald Lacey is a Managing Director at Citigroup Global Markets Asia. He sits on Iridescent’s audit committee.
Don’s attraction to Iridescent stems from his belief that societies are best served by making educational opportunities as broadly accessible as possible. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Iridescent’s efforts to stimulate interest in science, engineering and mathematics in underserved communities.
Don is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and studied mathematics and economics at MIT, where he received his SB. He commenced his career as an investment banker at Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Aniket Ullal is Senior Director at Standard and Poor’s, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Aniket Ullal has over 10 years of experience in launching and managing knowledge based businesses. He currently has product management responsibility for S&P’s US Indices, including the widely tracked S&P 500 and S&P/Case-Shiller indices. He has also worked in McGraw-Hill’s education business, where he helped launch a successful online formative assessment product for school districts. Previously he has worked as a business development manager at Infosys Technologies and as a consultant with Andersen. He is a graduate of Mumbai University, the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management
Dr. Chaitanya Ullal is a Researcher in Material Science at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Gottingen, Germany. Dr. Ullal is a graduate from MIT with a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering. He holds a B. Tech degree in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from the Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay)and was a visiting researcher at Bell Labs (Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, 2002-2003). Dr. Ullal has co-authored articles in leading peer reviewed scientific journals including publications from the Nature Publishing Group, American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, Optical Society of America, American Institute of Physics and the Wiley Publishing group. Dr. Ullal has 2 pending U.S. patents
Paul Yarin While growing up in New Jersey, Paul Yarin helped create the Young Inventors’ Club; this began his involvement in nonprofit science education. Paul is now an inventor, engineer, and educator whose passion is designing innovative electromechanical products. He is currently Director of Hardware Engineering at Oblong Industries, a computer tech startup developing a radically futuristic “spatial operating environment.” His consultancy, Blackdust Design, has developed an interactive trainer for laparoscopic surgeons, RFID-based medication trackers, networked devices for retail environments, and interactive sensors and displays for exhibits. Paul studied human-computer interaction at the MIT Media Lab after earning a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford and a Bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught at Stanford and UCLA as well as in Iridescent’s programs. His dream is that all children will one day have the chance to improve the world through invention.
Prof. Toby Cumberbatch, Electrical Engineering, The Cooper Union.
I was attracted to Iridescent because of the fantastic opportunities it presents for students and faculty at The Cooper Union to make a useful contribution to underserved kids in New York City. It is easy to forget that schools in the poorer areas of a large city frequently have access to far fewer resources than those in the more affluent areas. We do not have the financial resources to change the status quo but we do have people and knowledge. Through the Iridescent Engineers as Teachers program, we are able to show these kids and their families how exciting science and engineering are through Family Science Nights. More importantly, we form partnerships with these schools through which we are able to mentor and guide those interested in STEM.
In the longer term, I would like to develop teaching materials that can ultimately be used throughout the world in schools, which comprise no more than the shade of a tree and the natural resources at hand; materials that show children how exciting science and engineering are whilst enabling them to grasp the fundamental theoretical concepts. Through this, we all learn how to become better teachers, how to present complex material with simple experiments and clear exposition.
And of course I would like to see a society in which all kids have equal access to opportunity and resources! I believe that Iridescent has the opportunity to reinforce the idea that, given the right encouragement and access to resources, underserved kids in inner cities can aspire to the same dreams as those in the rich suburbs – and, in so doing, make the world a better and happier place.
We started in 2007 and wouldn’t have come so far if it wasn’t for the brave souls who believed in the vision and jumped wholeheartedly into battle.
Kara Christianson, VP (2007-2008)
Kara joined Iridescent after two years of teaching middle school math and science in Los Angeles with Teach for America. She worked with Iridescent to develop the Engineer training program, and to create stronger partnerships with area schools. After working with Iridescent, Kara moved to New York to join Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit organization that manages 30 high performing, college preparatory charter schools on the East Coast. Kara currently serves as the Senior Associate Director of Recruitment for all Newark and Brooklyn elementary schools in the Uncommon network.
Lindsey Jenkins-Stark, VP (2008-2009)
I joined iridescent to become part of a movement to inspire children to become something they didn’t know even existed, or didn’t know was within their reach: To be a scientist or engineer.
I learned so much about science, communities, and my own teaching in Iridescent. But most importantly, I learned how to communicate with people from very different backgrounds, and how to bring those people together to communicate with each other.
Sinchai Tsao, Director of Earned Income (2009-2011)
Kori Tsao, Researcher (2010-2011)
Erika Allison, Executive Director, Iridescent NYC (2010-2011)
Jennifer Hsu, Recruiting Director, Iridescent NYC (2010-2011)