Sandia LabNews

'MANOS' needs a hand

Sandia STEM program seeks new mentors

student works on chemistry experiment

students test robot vehicle

Many of us can thank a teacher or mentor who early in our lives ignited in us a passion for our current professions. Sandia’s Manos — or “hands-on” — program is looking for the next generation of Sandia volunteer mentors to provide that spark for science, technology, engineering and math in local middle school students.

students inspect robot vehicle

Since 1991, Manos has engaged more than 5,000 young students in Albuquerque with gripping hands-on experiences, hoping to increase the pool of Hispanic kids who pursue degrees in such STEM fields as engineering, physics, computer discovery, chemistry, robotics, electronics and more.

volunteer helps student with chemistry experiment

Aaron Legarda heard about Manos from his teachers. The South Valley Preparatory School seventh grader has completed modules in chemistry and math and now is exploring robotics. “In the second week, we made teams and started putting together robots with touch sensors and light sensors and color sensors,” he said. “It’s really cool to make something from parts that moves and counts and measures.”

students and volunteers discuss a computer program

Each year, about 70 Sandia staff members volunteer as teachers, managers and coordinators for the program. “We average 150 students per year and enjoy a regular flow of kids returning for more courses,” said Carla Jordan, a Sandia volunteer coordinator with the program for the last 10 years.

students and volunteer test robot vehicle

“Thousands of kids have been through the program, and we’ve seen a steady increase in graduation rates over the years. We know we’re having an impact.”

Manos averages 20 students per class. Classes run 4-6 p.m. each Thursday at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and last anywhere from two to seven weeks, depending on the subject. It’s all free to the students.

students and volunteer conduct gravity experiment

“There have been times when I wondered if I was making a difference,” said Sandia retiree Joe Maez, who first volunteered for Manos at the beginning of the program in 1991 and still volunteers for the electronics module.

“Students always say ‘thanks,’ and that means a lot, but the more rewarding part is when the parents tell me that the class is all their child talked about for weeks,” he said.

student shows hands covered in gooey blue substance

Carla added, “We’re not just teaching kids about science and technology. We’re teaching them about life and how to build a career and a future. They get that – it means something to them.”

Sandia offers employees up to 30 hours to volunteer

For more information on the Manos program and how you can volunteer, employees can visit Sandia’s Manos website or contact Carla Jordan at 505-284-2186, 505-263-7725 or