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Staff from various National Laboratories and program offices conducted outreach at AISES in 2019.
Staff from various National Laboratories and program offices conducted outreach at AISES in 2019.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management outreach staff and more than 2,000 people attended the National American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Conference, which featured over 250 exhibitors and 40 sessions.

Five federal representatives from the Office of Legacy Management (LM) travelled from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from October 10-12, 2019, to attend and present at the AISES Conference.

The conference, a three-day event with additional special activities before and after the main conference, is the largest American Indian college and career fair that focuses on educational, professional, and workforce development among American indigenous students.

LM staff Ken Kreie, William Frasier, Bernadette Tsosie, Angelita Denny, and Shawn Montgomery arrived early to participate in the STEM Activity Day on October 9. The event, which was sponsored by Boeing, featured hands-on activities for pre-college students and educators; around 150 participants attended the event.

LM hosted one of the most popular activities, which allowed students to build their own rocket balloons and test them in order to optimize how far the rockets would travel. Four types of string were spread out over a distance of about 75 feet. Students attached balloons to a straw on one of the four strings. Air in the balloons would then act as a propellant to launch the rocket (the balloon and straw) along the string. Students engaged in a short discussion on physics, including Newton’s Laws of Motion, encouraging them to design their rocket.

This seems like just a fun and simple activity, but it encourages students to consider things such as drag, friction, propulsion, and aerodynamics, in order to solve the problem of sending their rockets the farthest. Before they know it, students are iterating changes on their rockets to solve a problem, all while having fun — and that’s what we want. We want to show students that careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are about testing and solving problems.

Staff engage students at the AISES conference.

During the STEM Activity Day, LM shared space with federal employees from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who hosted a virtual reality (VR) technology activity. Students and educators wore VR goggles and discussed possible applications for the technology.

Throughout the day, nearly 50 students, educators, and chaperones designed their own rockets and competed to see whose rocket could fly the farthest. Many teachers inquired about how they might be able to utilize the activity in teaching their own students. LM and Lawrence Livermore employees also tried their hand at building the best rocket with both sides claiming the best design.

Attracting the best and the brightest to STEM careers with diverse backgrounds is critical to meeting our nation’s STEM job demands. The U. S. Department of Energy is continually engaged with tribal nations to collaborate on STEM opportunities for training, development, and career growth. To learn more about the agency’s STEM outreach, visit STEM Rising at