Source: EM Update | Vol. 11, Issue 8; Contributor: Ben Williams | February 26, 2019

Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management Manager Jay Mullis participates in the DOE Career Café, where students shared interests, learned about careers, and asked questions.

Nearly 20 employees from DOE’s offices of EM and Science supported a local middle school’s first science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) night, which attracted more than 800 students and their family members.

Jefferson Middle School’s recent event provided the students and families the opportunity to learn and have fun. Organizers designed activities to share ideas, resources, and opportunities in the STEM fields. Those fields are central to the technical work occurring in DOE’s Oak Ridge operations, which employ about 12,000 people and have a $5.6 billion economic impact in Tennessee.

Many local organizations partnered with the school for the STEM night to enable the students to explore different aspects of STEM, including 3-D printing, laser scanning, radiation detection, virtual reality, drones, and CO2-powered race cars.

DOE Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) employees gave students an entertaining hands-on lesson on building lava lamps using vegetable oil, water, food coloring, and effervescent antacid. Others participated in the DOE Career Café, where students shared interests, learned about careers, and asked questions of OREM’s scientists, engineers, and technicians.

“Community involvement is incredibly important to us as an organization, and we are continuously looking for opportunities for our employees to interact with students in local schools,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said. “This event provided an excellent environment for students to have some fun and learn how diverse and exciting STEM careers can be.”

Alex Goldberg, the school’s STEM coach, emphasized the importance of having major STEM employers engage young people in the community.

“We are proud to represent Oak Ridge and bring the entire community together to further the STEM possibilities for our students, and the Department of Energy plays a vital role in this endeavor,” Goldberg said.

Oak Ridge was the second school district in the U.S. to have each of its elementary, middle, and high schools fully STEM-accredited and certified.

Mullis appreciated the opportunity to engage the students at this stage of their education at the STEM event.

“We work to introduce them to new, exciting ideas and make them aware of the options available to them,” he said. “It is an investment in our future. One day, some of these kids may be responsible for leading our program and achieving Oak Ridge’s cleanup mission.”