Interior of the lab

The USC Iovine and Young Academy’s product innovation program will be the marquee initiative of the SoLa Foundation’s Materials Science and Engineering Lab. (Photo/Courtesy of SoLa Impact and the SoLa Foundation)


USC Iovine and Young Academy, SoLa Impact jump-start a science, design and engineering program for L.A. youth

The collaboration establishes an after-school program and fellowships that will open later this year to 750 young students and adults annually, putting them on the path to STEAM careers ranging from product design to tech innovation.

March 07, 2024 By Emily Gersema

The USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy will work with SoLa Impact’s affiliated nonprofit, the SoLa Foundation, to train South Los Angeles youth in integrated product innovation across materials science, computing, modeling, prototyping and fabrication.

The USC Iovine and Young Academy’s product innovation program will be the marquee initiative of the SoLa Foundation’s Materials Science and Engineering Lab at the SoLa Tech & Entrepreneurship Center Powered by Riot Games at the SoLa Beehive.

Each year, the lab will serve at least 750 youth between the ages of 8 and 21 through after-school and fellowship programs. The students will work with a team of experienced engineers, designers and innovators who will teach them how to fully utilize top-of-the-line equipment and technology to design, prototype and commercialize smart and sustainable products.

Aerial view of the Beehive location
The Beehive venue provides opportunities for small businesses and organizations to grow, and serves as a space for creators, innovators and leaders to gather, create and celebrate innovation, talent. culture and diversity. (Photo/Courtesy of SoLa Impact and the SoLa Foundation)

Working with SoLa, the USC Iovine and Young Academy will share its unique, challenge-based learning framework with students within the successful and inclusive tech and innovation ecosystem of SoLa and The Beehive, said Thanassis Rikakis, dean of the USC Iovine and Young Academy.

“This initiative is a chance for us to support children, teens and young adults in our neighboring communities by providing them with applied technical and creative learning opportunities that may set them on a course for innovative careers and sociotechnical entrepreneurship,” Rikakis said. “With this partnership, we will inspire generations of leaders and innovators.”

The collaboration demonstrates the USC Iovine and Young Academy and SoLa’s commitment to creative industries and applied technology education for students in Los Angeles.

“SoLa’s partnership with USC’s Iovine and Young Academy is a game-changer for the youth and families that we serve in South Los Angeles,” said Sherri Francois, chief impact officer of SoLa Impact and executive director of the SoLa Foundation. “I’m excited to see the future leaders of industry and design who will emerge from this center. And we’re just getting started.”

For the lab’s after-school and fellowship programs, SoLa is also collaborating with the USC Iovine and Young Academy’s high school partner, the Iovine and Young Center in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles.

The lab was made possible through a grant from the Howmet Aerospace Foundation, which is dedicated to opening access to STEAM education in under-resourced communities. The lab’s STEAM career training programs are also supported by Verizon Communications. The lab will open in June.

About the USC Iovine and Young Academy: The USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation was founded by entrepreneurs Jimmy Iovine and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. Conceived as an educational startup, the academy is not just a home for disruptors but a disruptor itself. The Challenge-Based Reflective Learning model of the USC Iovine and Young Academy cultivates sociotechnical systems expertise with an emphasis on industries at the intersection of technology, design and business (e.g., XR, design strategy, interactive technologies, product innovation, transformative AI). The model is unique among higher education institutions and achieves exceptional student outcomes that garner recognition from higher education, research, Big Tech and the creative industries. The academy offers a Bachelor of Science in arts, technology and the business of innovation, and a Master of Science in integrated design, business and technology.

About SoLa Impact’s Foundation: The SoLa Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit affiliate of SoLa Impact, aims to improve the lives of South L.A. residents and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by providing opportunities for education and economic mobility. SoLa’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center Powered by Riot Games is a state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind center at the heart of South Los Angeles. SoLa provides the community with skills-based technology programming, as well as scholarships and career development opportunities for underinvested communities to ensure Black and brown Angelenos get increased access to jobs, mentorship and placement in the most competitive fields of business. Learn more at