Labs host events to engage girls of all ages in STEM

By Katrina Wagner

Friday, April 23, 2021

two students make soap
MAKING FLUBBER SOAP — Students make their own hand soap using corn starch and shampoo during the “Building the Future – Women in STEM” online event. (Photo by Adam Wagner)

To mark Women’s History Month, Sandia coordinated three STEM events for girls of all ages, with hundreds of participants.

“Knowing that women are vastly underrepresented in STEM careers, I feel like we have an opportunity at Sandia to expose many girls, all ages, from all different backgrounds to STEM careers at a national lab,” said community relations specialist Kayla Norris.

The first online event — “Building the Future - Women in STEM” last month was aimed at elementary school age girls. More than 80 families from California and New Mexico participated in the interactive event, which was cohosted by Scientific Adventures for Girls, Stanford University and Sandia.

Women STEM professionals led such activities as building geodesic domes out of toothpicks and gumdrops and, under the watchful eye of Sandia chemist Nalini Menon, creating flubber soap from shampoo and cornstarch. Other activities included learning about watersheds from environmental technical professional Nora Wintermute and watching a live demonstration of an electron microscope.

climate career zoom panel
CLIMATE CAREER CONVERSATION — Panelists discuss the importance of battling climate change and the wide range and variety of jobs and career pathways for climate action careers. (Video still courtesy of Kayla Norris)

Other Sandians teamed with DOE External Affairs to deliver the Women in Climate Action Careers panel session on March 31 for high school students in disadvantaged areas and college students at minority-serving institutions and community colleges. Almost 300 participants from across the country were able to learn from women spearheading climate-related projects. Marcey Hoover, director for energy and homeland security program management, moderated the event and panelists included Sandia climate scientist Erika Roesler and representatives from DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who discussed education and career opportunities in climate science.

Around 30 middle-school-aged girls from California and New Mexico engaged in an interactive problem-solving virtual event last week, led by Chen Wang, Sandia’s Jill Hruby postdoctoral fellow, and a team of other Sandia women professionals and seniors from Dublin High School. The exercise was created from the Sandia Portal for Readiness Exercises and Planning tool. The girls worked in teams representing various professional roles to tackle a bubonic plague outbreak scenario.