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CSA@Caltech serves as a conduit for a research and development pipeline where university researchers and teachers and students work together to create innovative teaching and learning experiences. We provide more details about particular collaborations below.

Collaborations with local K-12 schools. CSA@Caltech is collaborating with middle schools and high schools throughout Los Angeles County to create lessons that support the transformation of students into innovative researchers.  The lessons focus on using a common platform for do-it-yourself (DIY) open-source lab instrumentation that can be shared between classrooms and school sites to make labs faster, iterative, and more collaborative. With the support of our teacher partners, our lessons follow NGSS guidelines that build upon a set of core disciplinary ideas; tying topics to community and environmental contexts at all stages; and bringing together the crucial engineering practices and inquiry driven learning so that students can fully integrate scientific thinking into their lives. Lessons combine a progression of autonomy and complexity with a repetition of central concepts and methods; and tablet technology provides a method for easily creating networks of classrooms and linking findings for comparing and cross-validating results. These teacher networks and lesson designs build upon existing education relationships and efforts. James Maloney, CSA@Caltech co-director, has extensive experience teaching science and coordinating two prominent K-12 outreach programs at Caltech: the Caltech Classroom Connection (CCC,, which for the last 8 years has partnered students, staff, and faculty with K-12 teachers to develop and run science lessons in Pasadena area schools; and the Summer Research Connection (SRC,, which for the last 6 years has provided Los Angeles area high school students and teachers with summer research opportunities at Caltech. 

Collaborations with Pasadena City College.  Pasadena City College ( has a strong Career and Technical Education (CTE) department that provides students with access to a fab lab where they gain hands-on practical experiences in fabrication technologies ranging from welding to laser cutting and 3D printing. Students  learn about programming, circuits, robotics, and engineering design practices, and apply those skills to produce actual devices. CTE Students are collaborating with us on the design of several of our instruments that are intended to turn iPads into portable field devices, as well as bring open-source genetic analysis to the classroom.

Collaborations with Caltech faculty and instructors. We are working with several Caltech partners to create lessons, instrumentation, and assays for classroom use. For example, we are working with

  • Prof. Bruce Hay to create a reliable test to detect GMO transgenes in crops;
  • Prof. Michael Roukes and Jessica Arlett to create lessons involving ultrasensitive detection of chemicals using miniature optical and electrochemical probes;
  • Prof. Long Cai to create low-cost optical sensors that can be attached to smartphones and tablets for field science;
  • Dr. Michael Vicic, lecturer in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, to create lessons where students create their own sensors tuned to chemical species of interest, using Prof. Nate Lewis's electronic nose technology. Vicic has created a sequence of undergraduate labs at Caltech which leads students through progressively individualized labs which make use of biotechnology, sensors, 3D printing, simulation software, plasmas, and molecular beams and culminates in an open-ended capstone senior project. We are working with him to co-develop CSA lessons;
  • Dr. Jeff Mendez, lecturer in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, to create lessons involving environmental chemistry and field studies. He has created several open-ended lab courses for undergraduates, including several in environmental chemistry, and is working with CSA@Caltech to develop portable sensors for an undergraduate environmental chemistry course. He also co-developed chemistry lessons for high school students, and provided CSA@Caltech summer students with access to teaching lab facilities.

Collaborations with Caltech's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach. Caltech has newly established a Teaching and Learning Center ( to support the university's educational activities in undergraduate and graduate courses and curricula, formal and informal learning, and partnerships with K-12 teachers and students. Dr. Cassandra Horii, founding director of the CTLO, is conducting an active multi-course research project to evaluate the use of iPads and other instructional technologies in undergraduate and graduate classes at Caltech to improve learning. We are working with Horii and her associates (Mitch Aiken and Melissa Dabiri) to conduct broader research studies on the efficacy of various CSA@Caltech programs.

Collaborations with local industry partners. Julius Su, co-director, is a co-founder of Su-Kam Intelligent Education Systems (SKIES,, an organization aimed at integrating time-tested teaching and learning methods with innovative technology for every teacher and student. SKIES works with CSA@Caltech to test and improve its collaborative learning software. CSA@Caltech also collaborates with IO Rodeo (, an organization that creates DIY open-source scientific instrumentation for settings ranging from classrooms to advanced research labs. We work together to develop useful lessons, instruments, and assays for our partner students and teachers.


Julius Su (co-director and instructor)


Julius is a co-founder of Su-Kam Intelligent Education Systems (SKIES), which develops a collaborative learning app for mobile devices. His goal is to make high-quality teaching and learning easier and accessible to all. In graduate school, he helped to teach many chemistry classes, for which he received an Outstanding TA award. In his free time, Julius likes to cook, swim, eat, and sleep.

He holds B.S. degrees in Biology and Physics from Caltech, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Caltech.

James Maloney (co-director and instructor)


James coordinates the Caltech Classroom Connection (CCC), a program which pairs Caltech volunteers with local K-12 classrooms to increase precollege student understanding, appreciation, and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), while also providing the Caltech community with valuable classroom-based teaching experiences. He co-founded the Summer Research Connection (SRC), which utilizes hands-on and project-based learning methods to give students and teachers a deeper understanding of the nature of science and the scientific process through participation in authentic research experiences.  He has always been passionate about teaching and sharing his love for math and science.  In his free time, he likes to compost, cook, and play guitar with his one year old son.

He holds a B.S. degree in Physics from the University of Florida, and a M.S. in Physics from Caltech.

Minh Pham (instructor)


Minh Pham was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and immigrated to Riverside, California, when he was eight years old. His poetry has been published in eleven literary journals; his nonfiction has been published in The Rattling Wall and KCET. He is working on a project to improve students’ critical thinking and communication skills by integrating writing and other arts into STEM disciplines, using collaborative learning technologies such as SKIES. In his free time, he likes to roller skate.

He received his B.S. in Asian-American Studies from U.C. Davis, and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from U.C. Riverside.