Two women posing for a picture in a classroom

Joy James-Foster, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Education Outreach lead, left, visits Kim Mitchell, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Education Outreach Program lead, to learn how to establish a DOE Regional Science Bowl in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Her three-day visit to the Savannah River Site included a mock science bowl demonstration with buzzers, scoreboards and timers.

AIKEN, S.C. – An EM Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) employee recently visited the Savannah River Site (SRS) to benchmark its successful science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach programs, which have been in place with local schools since 2008.

Joy James-Foster, WIPP Education Outreach lead, has followed SRS Education Outreach online for years, learning from various STEM related programs. After connecting with Kim Mitchell, Education Outreach Program lead for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the SRS management and operations contractor, Foster traveled more than 1,400 miles from Carlsbad, New Mexico, to Aiken to learn from SRS.

“The SRS Education Outreach Program caught my eye after WIPP’s new contractor, Salado Isolation Mining Contractors, aimed to host the first Regional Science Bowl in our area as part of our community commitment plan,” said Foster. “After multiple virtual meetings with Kim, I decided to take the chance and travel to South Carolina in hopes that this program would positively impact the underserved and rural populations of Carlsbad.”

In addition to conducting education outreach in their host communities, SRS and WIPP work together on EM’s cleanup mission, as defense-related transuranic waste shipments from SRS are shipped to WIPP for safe disposal.

Foster and Mitchell spent three days analyzing mock science bowls, listing the materials and labor needed to launch the Regional Science Bowl and touring the University of South Carolina Aiken, which has hosted DOE Savannah River Site Regional Science Bowls for over 15 years.

“It is the sincerest form of flattery to have someone take note of our accomplishments and aim to mirror our community initiatives in another state,” said Mitchell. “Joy is very dedicated to her program and this was the next step in taking her program to the next level while establishing a strong relationship with SRS.”

A group of college students pose for a picture while holding a trophy

The 2023 DOE Savannah River Site Regional Science Bowl Competition’s winner. Lakeside High School-Team 1, of Evans, Georgia, advanced to the DOE National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.

The Regional Science Bowl tests high school students’ knowledge in science and offers them a chance to be nationally recognized. SRS is one of only three sites to participate annually at the regional level since the DOE created the National Science Bowl in 1991.

“I am determined to connect our organization with the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” said Foster. “This benchmarking session helped pave the way for WIPP to establish a strong education outreach program and regional science bowl and that is all thanks to the mentorship I received from Kim.”

Mitchell and Foster plan to continue future workforce development and education outreach initiatives at both EM sites.

In addition to the Regional Science Bowl, SRNS Education Outreach programs include STEM that Travels, CSRA College Night, CSRA Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Innovative Teaching Mini Grants, various workshops and site tours. CSRA stands for Central Savannah River Area.

-Contributor: Mackenzie McNabb