Sandia LabNews

Hands-on, Minds-on

Celebrating 30 years of HMTech, a trailblazing Sandia-supported STEM program

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Since 1986, Sandia has helped more than 3,000 middle and high school students get involved in fun, hands-on science and engineering activities and explore a variety of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

The Hands On, Minds On Technology program, or HMTech, is sponsored by Sandia’s Black Leadership Committee (BLC). African-American employees began HMTech as an after-school program to inspire African-American students to pursue STEM careers. Ten years later, the educational supplement became a Sandia-sponsored summer program open to all students in grades 6-12, although its primary target is African-American students.

 “African-Americans are underrepresented in STEM fields, so our focus is to expose them to areas they may otherwise not be exposed to,” says Shauna Adams (422), a subsystem and components surety engineer and HMTech committee member. “When the students see the volunteers and instructors here, they think ‘I look like them,’ which shows them they can do what we do.”

Shauna has volunteered with the program for five years. She also serves as an advisor to the Greater Albuquerque National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) junior chapter.

A wide range of class offerings

Sandians accounted for 90 percent of the instructors at this summer’s event, supported by additional volunteers from around the Labs and the Albuquerque community.

In June, students attended two six-hour Saturday sessions; each day’s classes were broken into two, three-hour blocks of instruction and hands-on learning. Students were able to choose classes in such subjects as anatomy, physics, fractals, video game development, coding, computer programming, and radiation detection, measurement, and protection.

“We want people to know this program exists. It’s been 30 years and it still has a sustaining power, impacts the young kids, and has a significant impact on the community,” says HMTech coordinator Theresa Carson. Theresa, a senior manager in the Supply Chain Management Center, is the former co-chairwoman of the BLC and was recently presented with the 2016 Outstanding Service Award from the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs.

Sandia Executive VP and Deputy Labs Director Steve Rottler, executive champion of the BLC, is an enthusiastic booster of the program. “HMTech has improved educational excellence in our community, challenging youth to enrich their minds through the fun, hands-on application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Steve. “The sky is the limit for these students who may become the next scientists and engineers, perhaps someday joining us at Sandia. The more we can expose young people to STEM fields, the better the future will be for our community and our nation.”

Shauna adds that, for students to have an interest in STEM, they must be exposed to it. They need hands-on experience in STEM fields because the technical work requires out-of-the-box thinking, she says.

Anyone interested in volunteering with HMTech should contact Lydia Coleman at



A student works on soldering during one of many classes offered by HMTech.