Computer science major Andres Vourakis prepares for a second season of his STEM-focused web series Stembility.
Computer science third-year Andres Vourakis has found a way to unite a cohort of students and graduates with backgrounds as diverse as the information sciences, film and physics. How? Through Stembility, his STEM-focused web series.
“Stembility is a platform with the mission of giving undergraduate students the technical and entrepreneurial skills to succeed after college while inspiring others,” Vourakis explains. The web series, now gearing up for its second season, takes a documentary-style look at student teams working to complete community-minded tech projects.
The first season, which aired on YouTube, followed four students from UC Irvine and Cal Poly Pomona as they developed an analyzer for pH levels in water, and a social game to motivate people on their weight loss journey. The second season will likely follow a similar format, just on a larger scale if resources allow.
Vourakis says he conceived of the quarter-long student project to give student participants the real-world experience they’d need on their post-graduate job hunts. “I noticed that it’s difficult to put the theory to practice a lot of the time. You go to class and lecture, and do your homework, and it becomes a routine. I felt like I needed more. I needed to apply what I was learning in class,” he explains.
“It goes hand in hand with the fact that there’s a lot of undergraduate students who have a hard time finding a job,” he adds. “We wanted to come up with something that addresses that, which would help undergraduates gain the experience they need to find a job after college.”
But Vourakis wanted to reach a wider audience than the series’ participants—and offer more students opportunities to hone their work experience. A YouTube web series proved the perfect platform. “The participants are a small group, and for us, it’s really important to inspire other people. One of our side projects is offering opportunities for film students to participate in the series and film STEM projects in the community,” he says.
In just one season, the series has seen tremendous growth. The show began as the passion project of Vourakis and a few friends, but it now boasts a diverse production team of 12, along with four academic and professional advisors who are located throughout Southern California. ListoAmerica, a Latino-focused STEM nonprofit, and engineer networking organization Engineering Republic serve as community partners, while IEEE and ListoAmerica will sponsor the show’s second season.
Vourakis found himself pursuing a web series after being asked to submit a video introducing himself for a SpaceX internship. A STEM mentor for K-12 students, Vourakis was already looking for a way to rally undergraduates and promote practical STEM literacy.
The series provided visual proof of student entrepreneurship. “I thought, ‘That’s a great idea.’ [Video] is a great way to show who you are. The résumé doesn’t always describe exactly who you are. So I thought, if big companies are asking this of us, why aren’t we preparing ourselves to deliver? That’s why we decided to broadcast Stembility as a series,” he says.
Vourakis came to UC Irvine from Orange Coast College (OCC), where his initial interest in computer science was piqued. “I wasn’t a good student in high school, honestly,” he admits. “I had no idea that I wanted to pursue computer science. I actually got my first computer when I was 14.”
OCC represented a fresh start. “That’s when I got exposed to robotics and a lot of other things. Coming to UCI was my next big step,” he explains. Given his entrepreneurial spirit, Vourakis founded Stembility shortly after beginning his time at the Donald Bren School of ICS.
His vision for the series was well-received. “Educators and advisors really like the idea. They focus on the direct impact to students, and they think it’s something that is needed,” he says. As for the audience, the student-produced series has more than 3,400 views, 90 community members and spans five universities.
With that kind of growth, Vourakis finds himself deeply invested in Stembility’s future: “It’s 24/7. Even when I don’t want to, I’m constantly thinking about Stembility, and what I need to do tomorrow to make it better. My team is the same way. I have a great team.”