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Employees share the fun of STEM at local elementary

January 24, 2014 - 10:34am


Michael Rigas, a civil engineer with OREM, teaches students at Woodland Elementary how to make lava lamps.

Michael Rigas, a civil engineer with OREM, teaches students at Woodland Elementary how to make lava lamps.

Oak Ridge, Tenn. – On Jan. 23, employees from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management participated in Woodland Elementary’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) night. Employees volunteered to help students from kindergarten through fourth grade forge a love for math and science and realize the possibilities these disciplines offer.

“It’s rewarding any time you can participate in the education process,” said Jay Mullis, director of the Engineering, Safety and Quality Division with DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management. “These kids are in the stage when learning is new and fun, and it’s the perfect opportunity to lay a great foundation and appreciation of the sciences.”

The event involved numerous local sponsors and community groups that helped design and share fun, educational activities for students at Woodland Elementary in Oak Ridge. Kids had the opportunity to learn through robots, Legos, gummy bear catapults, astronomy, spaghetti and marshmallow tower-building competitions, and math code busters. Specifically, Environmental Management employees taught participants how to create their own lava lamps.

The event was a perfect fit for local Energy Department volunteers and participants. A majority of the employees within the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management are engineers and scientists who are eager to pass their knowledge and love of these fields to others. 

“I’m an electrical engineering graduate, and almost every coworker in the Environmental Management program has some form of STEM in their education or vocational background,” said Mullis. “Who knows, maybe tonight we interacted with some of the students who will go on to finish the environmental cleanup mission in Oak Ridge or build the world’s next fastest computer.”

The current Administration and U.S. Department of Education have prioritized the importance of promoting STEM education in our nation’s K-12 classrooms. The agency says the United States became a global leader through research and advancements made possible through these disciplines, and a commitment to education in these fields is the best way to maintain the country’s current position and influence in the world.

More information about the U.S. Department of Education’s STEM initiative is available at: