Sandia LabNews

Sandia, Quest Science Center unified for community good


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LEARNING TO CODE — Sandians, from right, Paolo Arguelles and Austin Scheck engage kids with an Ozobots coding-logic activity at the fifth annual Tri-Valley Innovation Fair on April 15. (Photo by Helena Jin)

Sandia’s partnership with Livermore’s Quest Science Center is a top priority for the Labs’ California Community Involvement team.

Quest’s vision is to inspire and nurture everyday exploration for lifelong engagement with science and technology, through STEM activities that are designed to raise curiosity and imagination in young students and to expose older learners to the vast relevance of science and technology in everyday life.

Sandia’s relationship with Quest Science Center demonstrates how corporate partnerships with community-based organizations increase the success of education outreach programs, resulting in better academic outcomes and career pathway achievements for students of all ages.

Deep ties to Sandia

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SPREADING STEM — Sandia volunteers, from left, Julia Robinson, Michelle Walker-Wade, Virginia Meagher and Robert Meagher collaborated with Quest Science Center and the Tracy Unified School District to host STEM adventure activities for youth and parents at Tracy Connects on Sept. 9. (Photo by Dean Reece)

Quest Science Center was founded and is directed by retirees from Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, along with other science and technology professionals, educators and community leaders. These visionaries wanted to pay it forward by donating their time and expertise to facilitate the learning of local students.

The center’s learning activities are conceptualized, designed and facilitated by a team of high school interns who work closely with the Quest team and skilled educators.

“Corporate partners like Sandia add in opportunities for engagement with current industry professionals, postdocs and college interns,” said Michelle Walker-Wade, community relations specialist for Sandia’s California site. “Working together, we can connect everyone to science and technology in keeping with the science center’s vision.”

Activities all year long

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NET ZERO — Howard Royer, left, the leader of Sandia California’s net-zero effort, showcases the site’s net-zero plan with Sandians Michael Shaikh and Kylie Johnson to help Livermore Youth Climate Summit attendees learn about climate resilience efforts. (Photo courtesy Quest Science Center)

The Community Involvement team at Sandia’s Livermore campus has helped plan learning activities, connected Quest with industry professionals and assisted with several free science events open to the public. Sandia has also supported the center financially through sponsorships.

Throughout the year, Donny Robinson, a materials scientist at the Labs, fostered the relationship between Sandia postdocs and Quest by helping high school interns take their conceptualized activities through the engineering process.

Sandia also partnered with Quest on the following activities in 2023:

  • Tri-Valley Innovation Fair. Several Sandians, including Paolo Arguelles, Helena Jin and Austin Scheck shared hands-on activities with students at the fifth annual Tri-Valley Innovation Fair in April. For example, an Ozobots activity introduced kids to coding logic.
  • Kids Day at Sandia. Quest Science Center Director Rick Stulen was a guest presenter at Sandia’s Kids Day in Livermore this past April. A former vice president of Sandia’s California Laboratory before retiring from the Labs, Stulen brought several hands-on STEM activities for middle and high school attendees to explore.
  • Sound Sensations. Community Involvement intern Michael Shaikh collaborated with Quest in July to develop an activity that helps youth explore the intricacy of sound.
  • Weather Wonders. Kids investigated weather and climate phenomena during a wind energy activity in August. Sandians Jessica Williams and Austin Scheck recruited family members to help make this Quest activity a success.
  • Livermore Youth Climate Summit. The Labs played an integral part in the summit in September. Hydrogen researcher Kristin Hertz rallied a team of Sandia experts in clean-energy transportation research to demonstrate and discuss Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with high schoolers and community members. Howard Royer, who leads Sandia California’s net-zero effort, helped students learn about climate resilience efforts by showcasing the site’s net-zero plan.
  • Tracy Connects. Sandia collaborated with Quest and the Tracy Unified School District to host several STEM adventure activities at Tracy Connects, a community day in September sponsored by the Tracy Chamber of Commerce.
  • Engineering Encounters. In October, Sandia hosted a hands-on activity building small catapults out of dowels and rubber bands.

Foundation for the future

When asked about Sandia’s connection with Quest, Michelle said, “In addition to being important to Sandia’s current and retired leadership, I believe each Sandia volunteer plays a crucial role in educating youth on various STEM topics.

“Our consistency in bringing fun, innovative and engaging interactive activities and demonstrations will ensure that youth continue to grow in their knowledge and exploration of STEM fields and future career opportunities, especially at the national laboratories.”

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KIDS DAY — Quest Science Center Director Rick Stulen, left, a Sandia retiree who served as vice president of the California site, shows a student how circuit boards function at Sandia’s Kids Day in Livermore on April 22. (Photo by Spencer Toy)
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TRAVELING SOUND WAVES — Community Involvement intern Michael Shaikh demonstrates how sound waves travel at Quest Science Center’s Sound Sensations event on July 8. (Photo by Michelle Walker-Wade)

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