Each year between spring and fall, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (LM) participates in eight to 10 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) events on the Navajo Nation. LM staff and LM Strategic Partner (LMSP) contractors travel to various communities on the Navajo Nation to demonstrate a variety of hands-on activities for students that promote STEM careers. The events are held at different high schools throughout the Navajo Nation. Last March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the STEM-sation group — composed of representatives from Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands, Arizona Public Service, and BHP Billiton Petroleum — canceled all STEM-sation events for the remainder of the year. When school began this fall, the STEM-sation planning team decided it would try something new and organize a virtual event with the staff and students of Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, New Mexico.
On Dec. 7, LM participated alongside seven other tribal organizations, schools, and businesses in a virtual STEM-sation event. The Zoom platform was set up by one of the organizations and students were divided into virtual classrooms. Each presenter had individual time slots and “breakout rooms” to dazzle the students with presentations tailored specifically for this event. LM put together a nine-minute video titled “Go With the Flow” that highlighted the significance of groundwater and how groundwater is treated and tested at LM’s Shiprock, New Mexico, Disposal Site. The Shiprock site is approximately 27 miles from Navajo Preparatory School, making the reference to the site and its unique geology more meaningful. Some of the students that attend Navajo Preparatory are from Shiprock and nearby communities.
During area outreach events with Shiprock community members, LM and LMSP have discovered that residents are always eager to learn more about the Shiprock disposal cell and the long-term surveillance work that LM performs at the site. The overall goal for this virtual STEM-sation event was to provide a unique opportunity to engage students and encourage them to enter STEM career fields while providing education through a demonstration of LM’s post-closure work and responsibilities at a site that is geographically nearby.
“One of the highlights of our job at LM is interacting in person with students at STEM events. While this event was held virtually, it is the best way to reach students and share the work of LM during this time,” said Shawn Montgomery, LM public participation specialist. “We are in the beginning stages of participating in more virtual learning opportunities and creating more educational content for STEM with LM,” he added.
The “Go With the Flow” video will be added to LM’s YouTube channel and available for future learning opportunities at STEM with LM.