National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA’s national laboratories get “extra credit” for inspiring future scientists with free STEM enrichment programs

November 13, 2017

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There’s nothing quite like seeing a child’s face light up as they discover something new about our world. NNSA is committed to encouraging curiosity and fostering future scientists. In honor of American Education Week, here are some of the amazing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational programs at the NNSA national laboratories.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been hosting “Science on Saturday,” a series of science lectures for middle and high school students, since 1999. The very first Science on Saturday featured a hands-on experiment investigating how air turbulence affects light. An optical engineer led young scientists as they modified a laser pointer, aimed it at a photo detector and listened for a mini amplifier to pick up the disturbance.

The program has grown considerably since the first Science on Saturday. The next event – “Building Biologically Inspired Nano-Bots” – takes place November 18 with presentations from two LLNL senior staff scientists, a postdoctoral fellow and a local biology teacher.

Sandia National Laboratories has a number of different free STEM programs specifically tailored to minority student populations.

Sandia National Laboratories has a number of different programs specifically tailored to minority student populations, though students of any race or ethnicity are welcome to participate. The programs introduce students to the accomplishments of minority professionals to spark a sense of pride and ignite confidence in the young scientists.

  • HMTech Science Program is a summer STEM program run by the Black Leadership Committee for middle and high school students. Students can pick three courses from choices like anatomy, career planning and robotics. The program is held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Manos Science Program is a weekly “hands-on” program during the school year for middle school students. Sandia’s Hispanic Outreach and Leadership Awareness Committee partners with Albuquerque Public Schools and the National Hispanic Cultural Center to make Manos possible.
  • Dream Catchers Science Program is a STEM program from the American Indian Outreach Committee. Middle and high school students get the opportunity to explore a range of disciplines – from fuel cell cars to project management with activities led by volunteer scientists, engineers, technologists and business professionals from the Native American community.

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Los Alamos National Laboratory hosts a Frontiers in Science lecture series featuring its distinguished fellows discussing their research areas. Fellows are technical staff members appointed annually by the Laboratory Director in recognition of outstanding contribution. The talks are open to all ages but are best enjoyed by science fans who are at least middle school age because a basic understanding of topics like photosynthesis and subatomic particle structure may be required.

The most recent lecture was provided by Space Physicist Geoff Reeves. “Whether there’s weather in space,” was an out of this world discussion about meterology and Reeves’ research into the Van Allen radiation belts.