Meet the Founders

STEM Center USA was founded by the Jawa sisters. After years of supporting each other as students of STEM, then teachers and mentors of STEM programs, the Jawa sisters decided to share their excitement and enthusiasm with students. Their goal is to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders around the world with the exciting educational experiences uniquely created at our STEM centers.

Melissa Jawaharlal – CEO & Co-Founder


Melissa Jawaharlal is a co-founder of STEM Center USA and engineer at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. She studied at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and got her Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC). Melissa's research field is primarily in space exploration in which she's served as a design lead for currently orbiting satellites at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) as well as performed software optimization for the United States Air Force. 

Melissa is passionate about exploring the final frontier of space and engineering for the developing world. Most importantly, she works to ensure that future generations will share that zeal for STEM advancement. She has presented her work at MIT through the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program as well as through NCIIA and Inventor's Digest. Melissa has mentored and taught in numerous robotics related activities for several years and has been recognized for her coaching and instruction style. She is passionate about hands-on, experiential learning and seeks to revolutionize K-12 STEM education. Melissa is an avid traveler and enjoys adventuring to new places and scuba diving.

Lavanya Jawaharlal – President & Co-Founder

LavanyaLavanya Jawaharlal is a co-founder of STEM Center USA and currently with the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of California, Berkeley. Enthusiastically involved with robotics, Lavanya has participated in STEM related activities for over 6 years and is part of her FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team, which won the 2011 Los Angeles Regional Competition. Lavanya has competed in both Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and Raytheon competitions, placing second and third respectively. Her involvement in robotics extends to being a coach/mentor of several FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams. She has presented at multiple conferences including: the 2010 National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) in Washington D.C. on “Design Inspired by Limpet: A Biomimicry Approach to Find Sustainable Solutions” and the 2011 Chinese Institute of Engineers (CIE) Conference where she talked about the “STEM Influence on the Younger Generation.”

Lavanya has also served as the California Executive Vice President of Future Business leaders of America (FBLA). In her spare time Lavanya enjoys running with her German shepherd and Siberian husky and scuba diving.