California middle school students get look at STEM careers

By Michael Padilla

Photography By Dino Vournas

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Researcher Mark Musculus talks with students about the Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Lab

DIESEL POWER — Researcher Mark Musculus describes research conducted in the Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Lab in Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility.

From designing a paper airplane to learning all about research in an ultrafast laser lab, more than 35 students recently took part in Career Exploration Day with Citizen Schools at Sandia/California.

The nonprofit Citizen Schools partners with middle schools across the nation to extend learning for youth in underserved communities.

The goal of the event was to expose students to careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Students took part in hands-on science demonstrations and toured two labs in Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility. During the event, students questioned researchers about STEM careers.

“Sandia is committed to delivering STEM educational outreach opportunities designed to increase the number of underrepresented students who successfully pursue STEM careers,” said Dori Ellis, associate labs director for Integrated Security Solutions. “Career Exploration Day with Citizen Schools was an excellent opportunity to give students firsthand exposure to a national laboratory and provide students with career-building skills and takeaways to use in their future academic paths and careers. Perhaps as important, the individuals who engaged with the students represent a diverse group of men and women that are role models for what these students can aspire to be.”

A researcher helps a student during the model airplane demonstration      A Sandia intern helps a student during the model airplane demonstration

TAKING FLIGHT — Systems engineer Raheel Mahmood (left photo) played a key role in planning the Career Exploration Day with Citizen Schools. He and Adriana Del Cid, community relations intern, led the model airplane demonstration.

Systems engineer Camron Proctor welcomed the students to Sandia and spoke about his work at the Labs.

“I see a lot of myself in these kids, and their background resonates with me,” Camron said. “I wanted to highlight the similarities so that they could see what I didn’t at their age. It is important to me that they see someone who is, like them, deeply engaged in science and engineering.”

Systems engineer Raheel Mahmood and Adriana Del Cid, community relations intern, welcomed the students and led the paper airplane design demonstration.

During the event, Dori presented a check for $15,000 to Maria Drake, executive director of Citizen Schools, to support ongoing science programs.

“It was super exciting to hear students express their intentions of sharing their experiences with siblings and friends,” Adriana said. “I heard a specific student looking forward to showing her younger brother how to make a paper airplane using the airplane demo sheet. Hearing this highlights the importance of having these outreach events and field trips for students because they not only impact the students attending, but also have the power to reach others in the students’ lives, sparking their curiosity in STEM.”

Sandia supports Citizen Schools as part of the Labs’ commitment to educational success. This effort includes recruiting current members of the workforce to volunteer to teach 10-week apprenticeships at underserved middle schools. A team of Sandia volunteers also put together the career exploration event.

The event was spearheaded by Kayla Norris, community relations specialist, and Adriana. Volunteers included Neil Cole-Filipiak, Mark Musculus, Chris Kliewer, Holly Gothard and Patrick Joseph Blonigan. Zoe Pilla served as the Citizen Schools coordinator.

students learning about the Combustion Research Facility

IGNITING MINDS — Citizen Schools students learn all about the research done inside the Combustion Research Facility.