Editor's note: this article was originally posted on LLNL's website.
Valeria Rizo, an eighth-grade student at Williams Middle School in Tracy, wants to pursue a career in the medical field combined with engineering. “I want to work with prosthetic devices,” she said. At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), bioengineering is one of the fastest growing research areas, and the Lab is a great place for Rizo to embark on such a career.
Rizo was one of more than 200 students from San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Contra Costa counties who visited LLNL last week for STEM Day at the Laboratory, a daylong interactive event focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that is geared toward getting students excited about science as a fun career path and encouraging them to make positive future life and career choices. This is the second year that the Lab has reached out to Central Valley schools to participate. Students came from Antioch, Manteca, Modesto, Stockton and Tracy. See the photo gallery.
Pat Falcone, deputy director for Science and Technology, and Tony Baylis, director of LLNL's Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Programs, welcomed the participants and provided a framework for the day.
“As you all can see, we here at this Laboratory are pretty stoked about you being here,” Baylis said. "To do the science and technology here at this Laboratory, it takes a huge team, a team of people working together for the common good, and that makes an impact. We really want you to understand that you can be a part of that. This is just a small glimpse as to what you may see as a possibility for a career or something you might want to do in the future. We want you to partner with us and don’t be afraid to ask questions. We are all here to help you.”
Other guest speakers included Reva Nickelson, principal associate director of the Operations and Business Directorate at LLNL, and Kirk Brown, division director of STEM Programs, San Joaquin Office of Education.
“The scientists and engineers, like the ones you will encounter here today, are the true heroes,” Brown said. "They are the ones inventing new technologies and creating lifesaving devices that touch all of our lives.”
Many students outside of Livermore aren’t very familiar with LLNL. The goal of STEM Day at the Lab is to expose them to a day of tours, mentoring and interactive STEM-focused demonstrations, to provide a better understanding of what engineers and scientists do, and inspire them consider LLNL for an internship or a place to potentially spend their career.
“Our Laboratory is always happy to expose young students to the many careers at an innovative science and technology laboratory such as ours," Baylis said. "We hope to provide insight and awareness to as many students as we can and make a difference so that it may shed light on the potential for their educational journey and career choice. Hopefully they will consider LLNL in their future.”
Kinza Alami, an eighth-grade student at Williams Middle School in Tracy, wants to be a software engineer. “I loved seeing all the different presentations and demonstrations about the research being done here at the Lab,” Alami said. “The robot demonstration was really cool.”
After the opening remarks, student volunteers were brought on stage to assist presenters Harold Rogers and Larry Finnie with “Fun With Science.” Students were then treated to lunch where they sat alongside Lab employees who shared what they do and the variety of careers they could embark on at the Lab.
The afternoon consisted of students split between two groups and alternating between a visit to the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and an atrium filled with hands-on STEM exhibits manned by LLNL and Sandia/CA employees on aquifers, coding, robotics, additive manufacturing (3D printing), security, manufacturing and machining, radiation protection, wildlife biology, engineering, virtual reality tours and “The Magic of STEM.”
At NIF, two waves of students flowed between STEM stations indoors and outdoors as Lab volunteers shared some of the inner workings of the world’s largest and most energetic laser. Employee docents inspired the students by describing their own STEM backgrounds, career paths and journeys to NIF.
“This event couldn’t happen without the many volunteers at our Laboratory who believe that this is a part of our DNA of social responsibility,” Baylis said. “It also wouldn’t be possible without the coordination of Jenessa Dozhier, Joanna Albala, Carrie Martin and CaT Vogen who spearhead our volunteerism, public outreach and workshops for the students. We are on a mission to elevate our impact on science and technology and are proud of the impact we have on our society, too.”
The event was sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Programs with assistance from the University Relations and Science Education Program and employee volunteers. For more information, contact Dozhier, administrator, Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion, at (925) 424-5974.