Growing up in the 1990s, Chris Garcia devoured pop culture, watching the animated “Batman” and “X-Men” shows and dreaming of growing up to be Bruce Wayne.
When the first “Iron Man” movie came out, he was inspired by the fact that the superhero didn’t have super powers and instead relied on his intelligence to build an Iron Man suit to escape harm.
“That’s actually one of my favorite Marvel movies because you see someone that had to use their brain, had to use their knowledge,” said Garcia.
Years later, Garcia, 38, has become a San Diego educator who uses his passion for pop culture to teach students about technology, science and engineering. And he’s showcasing that passion at WonderCon, the pop culture gathering in Anaheim operated by San Diego International Comic-Con.
WonderCon is this weekend, and on Friday Garcia will lead a presentation entitled “Engineering Superhero Technology” in which he will discuss how the engineering design process can help superheroes like Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Garcia grew up in Chula Vista and later worked in the Chula Vista Elementary School District as an instructor in the district’s Innovation Station, which fosters student interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. He is the assistant principal at Hillsdale Middle School in El Cajon and is also a professor at the University of San Diego.
Throughout his career, he has sought to inspire and open the minds of students, especially those who weren’t excited about learning science and math.
He realized he could use pop culture to do that and so he showed students clips of superhero movies and talked about how the technology they saw on the screen can be created in real life.
In class he challenges students to think outside the box about how technology can help solve global problems like pollution, the environment and hunger.
Garcia said his students enjoy pop culture and the movies and he wants them “to have that connection and let it be connected to a lesson in the classroom.”
He is just one of many San Diegans who will participate in the upcoming WonderCon, and his presentation this week is not his first. Last year, he gave presentations about technology and pop culture at both Comic-Con and WonderCon.
Garcia is trying to spread his work to other classrooms through his position at USD, where he trains other teachers around the world about STEM so that they can in turn teach their students. He recently took an educational expedition to Kenya where helped teachers there learn how to use iPads to teach and inspire students.
“I want people to be inspired. To have more questions than answers,” he said.
Tickets and information about WonderCon are available at www.comic-con.org/wca.