U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (LM) representatives attended STEM Fest 2023 at the Chota Conference Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on the Cherokee Nation. Middle and high school Cherokee Nation students from 14 counties participated in the one-day festival that featured science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) informational stations and STEM education and career-focused activities.
LM Public Participation Specialist Shawn Montgomery and LM Physical Scientists Angelita Denny and Ken Kreie talked with students at LM’s booth about various STEM topics, such as radiological contaminants and cleanup, uranium’s origin, and how uranium compares to other metals.
LM staff also led a heavy metals activity, in which students compared the weight of common metals like aluminum, cast iron, copper, and lead to uranium’s dense weight. They lifted sandbags that varied in weight to simulate how the weight of a 2-inch cube of each of those metals would feel in their hands.
“While this is such a simple activity, it encourages students to think about uranium and how LM plays a role in helping protect people and the environment,” Montgomery said.
Kreie and Denny were excited to talk to and work with students at the booth. “It’s always great to interact with all the students and watch them really enjoy the activities that we bring to events like this,” Kreie said. “We’re hoping to replace the sandbags with something more permanent down the road, but everyone seemed to love this activity.”
“I grew up on the Navajo Nation, so it’s really interesting and fun to get to visit a different Nation and meet with all the prospective STEM students,” Denny said. “I look forward to being able to attend events like these in the future.”
The first-ever Cherokee Nation STEM Fest was so successful, they had to turn away nearly 1,000 students. Next year, coordinators intend to extend the festival to three days.
“We always look forward to events like these to showcase STEM with LM,” Montgomery said. “We are excited to come back next year and make even more connections with students.”