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NETL’s STEM Education & Outreach Team Facilitates Virtual STEM Learning

NETL’s STEM Education & Outreach Team supports all types of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning — even if that learning takes place through a screen. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and into 2021, team members have stayed busy by preparing virtual activities and participating in online events that continue to bring STEM education, information on science career paths and more to students and science professionals during a time of great uncertainty.

In the last year, NETL developed the first in a series of virtual Meet A Scientist events to increase the accessibility of the Lab’s research and directly engage with K-12 students in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and rural Oregon. Interested participants submitted questions through NETL’s social media accounts, with researchers addressing selected questions through a live virtual event. Researchers were able to speak about their career pathways and exciting research roles during the event. Future Meet a Scientist events are slated to occur, so check NETL’s social media to learn about future dates and topics.

NETL is also meeting new challenges by supporting virtual competitions such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual CyberForce Competition. Held in November 2020, NETL employees offered their time by volunteering from home to help make the event possible. The competition was held as an individual event where challengers competed in interactive, scenario-based cybersecurity challenges. The goal was to utilize cybersecurity measures to protect NETL volunteers, who played the role of a typical computer user. The competition focuses on bringing awareness into the critical infrastructure and cybersecurity nexus and providing basic understanding of cybersecurity within a real-world scenario.

In June 2020, NETL celebrated Bring Your Kid to Work Day with children of employees by offering several online activities. Researchers from the Lab’s Energy Process Analysis Team, Structural Materials Team, Strategic Partnerships Team and other areas shared career stories and gave advice to budding scientists and engineers in a virtual presentation. The goal of this interactive discussion was to encourage all employees to participate in order to gain a better understanding of the Lab’s work, as well as provide STEM learning opportunities to children of all ages.

Another notable event at the national scale was the USA Science and Engineering Festival (SciFest), where NETL maintained a virtual booth that offered information about NETL’s core competencies and other areas of research to K-12 students, college students, and educators. The event featured more than 100 booths from different industries and offered several activities for participants to celebrate the joy of science learning.

Outside the Lab, NETL scientists offered their advice and expertise in several virtual career fairs and science expos throughout 2020. Specific events included Oregon State University’s Natural Sciences, Earth & Environmental Fair, which provided undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to network with established researchers, seek information about and investigate internship and employment opportunities with various companies and government organizations. Researchers from NETL’s Albany, Oregon, site gave short presentations, fielded questions over video chat and provided information to students interested in pursuing a career in energy research.

Additionally, the Lab’s STEM Education & Outreach Team are hosting the 2021 regional West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania Science Bowls virtually this month. Team members are providing support by reaching out to schools, supporting coaches and students, recruiting and training volunteers, communicating with the National Science Bowl on competition dates and more to bring this exciting annual event to life in a virtual setting for the first time. Teams with the highest scores at the end of each event will move on to the National Science Bowl, to be held April 29-May 3.

NETL’s education and outreach efforts are evolving to become more accessible and accommodating during a time of many unforeseen challenges. The Lab continues to demonstrate commitment to encouraging STEM learning and inspiring the next generation of innovators. For more information about NETL’s STEM programs, click here.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory develops and commercializes advanced technologies that provide reliable and affordable solutions to America's energy challenges. NETL’s work supports DOE’s mission to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States.