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Earlier this year, Mythbusters star and robotics engineer Grant Imahara died suddenly at the age of 49. Today, on what would have been his 50th birthday, a new foundation is launching to celebrate his life and legacy, and to help future generation follow in his footsteps.
On Friday Imahara's family and friends — including his mother Carolyn Imahara and friends and colleagues Don Bies, Anna Bies, Edward Chin, Fon H. Davis, Coya Elliott, and Ioanna Stergiades — announced the formation of the Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to furthering Imahara's lifelong passion for science, creativity, and mentorship. The foundation was officially unveiled in a video celebration of Imahara's life on the non-profit's new website Friday afternoon.
“There are many students, like my son Grant, who need the balance of the technical and the creative, and this is what STEAM is all about,” Carolyn Imahara said in a statement. “I’m so proud of my son’s career, but I’m equally proud of the work he did mentoring students. He would be thrilled that we plan to continue this, plus much more, through The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation.”
Best known for his work on Mythbusters, Imahara's career also included work at Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, where he contributed to blockbusters like the Star Wars prequels and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but his lifelong passion for science led him to apply his talents beyond the pop culture sphere. In the early 2000s, spurred on by ILM's own outreach program, Imahara mentored the robotics team at Richmond High School as part of the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Many of Imahara's students as part of that mentor program went on to be mentors themselves, and the experience drove Imahara to continued working as a mentor for the rest of his life.
In that spirit, one of the STEAM Foundation's key pursuits is the continued support of not just Richmond's FIRST "Team #841," but the entire FIRST Robotics competition, including support for other teams around the country, with efforts to prioritize teams in underserved communities. Other initiatives, as detailed on the Foundation's website, will include college scholarships and financial support for qualified students seeking advancement through unpaid internships.
But the Foundation launch is not the only effort honoring Imahara today. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Imahara's USC classmate Wade Bick, in partnership with the Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation, also chose Imahara's 50th birthday as the launch date for a campaign to get a study lounge at USC named after him. A fundraising page for the effort launched on Friday, with gifts supporting the Grant Imahara Memorial Study Lounge going to support the USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center, which "provides programs that bring innovative STEM projects to under-resourced K-12 schools, teachers and families in Southern California."
To learn more about the Memorial Study Lounge project, or to donate, visit the campaign website. To learn about the Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation, including donation and volunteer oppportunities, visit the foundation's website.