Sandia LabNews

Our First Pipeline

See also: Inspiring the next generation

More than 1,600 kids turn out for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

A young guest dons a virtual reality headset during a visit to a Div. 6000-hosted activity called “Serious Gaming and AR/VR Work at Sandia,” which showed how these technologies enhance Sandia’s simulation, training, and analysis efforts.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day: Think of it as the Labs’ very first pipeline —  the first opportunity each year that Sandia has to introduce itself up close and personal to the next generation of scientists, engineers, business and administrative professionals, tradespeople, security officers, and others who collectively make it possible to fulfill Sandia’s vital purpose: to develop advanced technologies to ensure global peace.

This year, more than 1,600 youth in grades 5-12 came to Sandia to see where their parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors work and find out more about the myriad career opportunities in the nation’s premier national security laboratory.

This year, the children, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and friends of all members of the workforce were eligible to participate in the dozens of activities scheduled in labs, offices, shops, auditoriums, and test sites around the Labs. TODSTWD was held in conjunction with

Sandia’s Earth Day 2017 activities, which included the annual EMS awards presentation.

Laura Matzen of Cognitive Sciences and Systems Dept. 1463 introduces young visitors to “Brains in Action,” a tour of Sandia’s Human Performance Laboratory. Students were able to participate in hands-on demos of technologies used in cognitive science and human factors research.

One attendee’s assessment of the day expressed a sentiment shared by almost everyone: “My husband works here, too, and this is the first year our oldest son was eligible to attend. It’s a huge employee morale boost to be able to share a part of our work lives with our son. We are so proud of what we do at Sandia and we want our boys to be proud of us as well. I’m so grateful we have this opportunity.”

The high winds that rose up early on the morning of April 27 couldn’t put a damper on the enthusiasm of attendees or foil the day’s activities. Events scheduled for Hardin Field and other outdoor venues were moved indoors and while organizers had to scramble, they made the best of a demanding situation and attendees hardly missed a beat in adjusting their plans for the day.

Perhaps like no other annual activity at the Labs, TODSTWD involves and energizes a broad cross section of Sandians from all levels and all fields: “This is important to all employees,” one parent said at the time. “I’m on the business side of the house and my husband is on the technical staff, and we were both equally excited to show our kids where we work.”

Outgoing Div. 6000 VP Jim Chavez takes in the view from atop the Solar Tower at Sandia’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility. With him are his son and another young friend.     (Photo courtesy of Jim Chavez)

Other comments from employees echoed the sentiment:

  • What am amazing year!
  • The activities hosted by our employees were top notch.
  • Where else can students be exposed to the unique work we do if not for this special day?
  • Many kids are only partially interested in what their parents do until they get to see it first-hand. Suddenly their parent is much more interesting and their curiosity is piqued. That’s really the goal — to entice students and get them wondering about how they too can get to do the work they see at Sandia.
  • As Sandians, I think we tend to push our kids when it comes to academics, but there is nothing like them being able to actually see first-hand the options that become available to you with a good education.
A young visitor checks out the information at the Div. 1000 Suspect/Counterfeit Items Booth.

The young visitors each year clearly relish being able to see what Sandia is all about, but is the day really a pipeline for future Sandians? One parent knows so: “Watching some engineering tests in Tech Area 3 two years ago during TODSTWD convinced my son he wanted to go into mechanical engineering.”

TODSTWD event coordinator Roberta Rivera says, “This is a win-win-win for students, parents, and Sandia as a whole. The members of the workforce love it, the students love it, and we have seen time and again that exposing young people to what we do really can spark an interest in STEM careers. We outdo ourselves each year and I’m already looking forward to what we can do in 2018.”

Inspiring the next generation

Blythe Clark (1819) and Olivia Underwood (1851) of the Sandia Women’s Action Network hosted a Women in STEM panel during Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. The panel featured women in STEM careers at Sandia and sought to inspire students in the audience while being honest about obstacles the participants had overcome during their careers.

Blythe said, “We wanted to showcase the enthusiasm that these women have for their careers in STEM, and share their experiences in celebrating their successes and navigating through challenges along the way. We wanted them to see that it’s OK if something seems hard. It’s OK to learn from our mistakes and to ask questions. When there’s an obstacle in your way, you can work to overcome it.”

The participants also talked about their educational and career paths, what influenced them along the way, what they find rewarding about their career, and offered advice for young people interested in pursuing STEM careers. From left to right: Jill Wheeler (2576), Erika Roesler (8863), Amber McBride (8635), Nicole Howie (10727), Aseneth Lopez (6332), and moderator Blythe Clark.