Office of Legacy Management

LM Engages Students at STEM-sation Event on Navajo Nation

December 14, 2018

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Step into the mind of a civil engineer proposing drainage control features within a watershed …

Or a scientist testing for radiation levels in a community ...

Or envision yourself as a hydrologist taking water samples from a nearby river …

Students were able to do just that during the STEM-sation event, held at Chinle High School, in Chinle, Arizona on November 9. Chinle is the largest high school on the Navajo Nation. LM has participated in other STEM-sation events this year at Shiprock High School, Kirtland High School, and Greyhills Academy. 

For the last STEM-sation event of the year, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (LM) staff and LM Support (LMS) contractors provided a variety of hands-on activities to promote science, technological, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to students.

This event, sponsored by Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) and Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands, drew in more than 1,000 high school students and included over 20 participating vendors.

LM Site Manager William Frazier demonstrated a hands-on storm water management exercise for the students and faculty. First, Frazier taught the students how storm water systems are designed. Then, he explained the evaluation of watersheds, including quantifying rainfall and determining runoff quantities, as well as the subsequent design and implementation of storm water structures and features.

He allowed the students to take on the role of a civil engineer for a few moments, and place drainage control features within a proposed watershed.

“There were many interested students and faculty that talked about real-time problems at their home site locations,” Frazier said. “We discussed the problems in depth, and some proposed solutions that they could consider implementing. I thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiasm and the vision of the future these young people had, and I was happy to encourage them to continue to do their best in life.”

Other hands-on activities provided by LM staff and LMS contractors included the application of a Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting and measuring radiation levels, and a groundwater flow demonstration, which illustrated to students how groundwater is stored and moves through the different layers of soil, sand, and rocks.

LM Site Manager Angelita Denny demonstrated the use of a radiation detector (Geiger Counter) instrument that is commonly used for performing radiation and contamination surveys on DOE LM project sites around the country.

The students were provided an operating radiation detector instrument and a hands-on display that had a mix of low-level, naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) items and other items that did not contain NORM. The hands-on display included a home smoke detector, a container of Brazil nuts, a banana, a rock that contained NORM, a Fiestaware flower vase, an old spark plug, a container of NoSalt (a salt-substitute), a small bag of cat litter, and a rubber ducky. These items were specifically selected for the display in order to show that they are a generally a part of our everyday lives and that they contain small concentrations of radioactive material.

“A lot of students were interested in going to college and we encouraged them,” said Denny. “I told them there would be times they may fail, and go through tough times. I explained that is part of the process in trying to reach their goals.”

“We want to thank all the vendors, students, and Chinle High School administrators and teachers for making STEM-sation a success,” said Nathan Tohtsoni, the NTEC education coordinator. “The purpose of the event is to promote STEM fields to our Navajo students to show them opportunities they have in these fields. They don’t have to go to the cities when there are quality STEM jobs here on the Navajo Nation.”

LM and LMS staff provide a variety of hands-on activities to promote science, technological, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to students.
LM and LMS staff provide a variety of hands-on activities to promote science, technological, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to students.
LM and LMS staff provide a variety of hands-on activities to promote science, technological, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to students.