Middle-school students participated in hands-on demonstrations and took tours at Sandia National Laboratories’ first-ever Citizen Schools event on April 4. (Photo - Dino Vournas)

Adriana Del Cid was thrilled to hear the children participating in Sandia National Laboratories’ first-ever Citizen Schools event talking about sharing their new knowledge with siblings and friends.

“It was super exciting to hear students express their intentions of sharing their experiences. I heard one student looking forward to showing her younger brother how to make a paper airplane using the airplane demo sheet,” said Del Sid, community relations intern at Sandia and event co-organizer. “Hearing this highlights the importance of having outreach events and field trips for students because it not only impacts the students attending, but also has the power to reach others in their lives to spark their curiosity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

The Citizen Schools event took place at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore on the afternoon of April 4. Around 35 students from Oakland and San Jose participated.

“The purpose was for Sandia to host a STEM career exploration event to expose the students from underserved communities in the Bay Area to real-life STEM careers at a national laboratory,” said Sandia Communications Specialist Michael Padilla. “The atmosphere was energetic as students were eager to learn what Sandians do on a regular basis, and excited to start the activities at the event.”

Two lab tours took place in the Combustion Research Facility: the Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Lab Tour, led by Mark Musculus; and the Ultrafast Laser Diagnostics Lab Tour, led by Chris Kliewer.

Two hands-on STEM demonstrations were: a 3D Printing Activity, led by Holly Gothard; and a Paper Airplane Design Demo, led by Raheel Mahmood.

“The most common question asked by students was, ‘What’s the biggest or coolest thing you’ve done at your job?’” Del Cid said. “The answers from each volunteer varied, but followed a common theme of appreciating the versatility of their jobs and the positive impact each project they work on has on the security and quality of life for individuals.”

In addition, the event included a $15,000 check presentation from Sandia Lab Director Dori Elis to Citizen Schools Executive Director Maria Drake. Citizen Schools was a recipient of Sandia’s 2019 educational success grant.

Citizen Schools is a national organization that partners with public middle schools in low-income communities to provide an expanded learning day rich with opportunities. Its mission is to reduce the opportunity gap in education; lower-income students miss out on the almost $8,000 students in upper-income families benefit from annually, including things like robotics camp, music lessons and academic tutoring. This year, Citizen Schools will serve more than 100,000 students in 28 communities nationwide to promote equal opportunity for all.

“Sandia also sponsors Family Science Nights, in conjunction with the Livermore Valley Education Foundation, each Wednesday throughout the school year at elementary schools around the greater Tri-Valley area,” Padilla said. “Sandia sponsors Family STEAM (STEM plus Arts) nights as well, managed through Scientific Adventures for Girls in Oakland and Emeryville. Additionally, Sandia participates in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s STEM days, and various STEM fairs and events around the East Bay.”

The Citizen Schools event at Sandia was organized by Community Relation Officer Kayla Norris, with a team of Sandian engineers who volunteered to participate in the activities.

“I am hopeful that students take away feelings of worth and a sense of empowerment and of being fully capable of obtaining an education in any field they dream of,” said Del Cid. “As a student myself, I can testify that events like this truly make a difference in motivating students to feel capable of taking on challenging fields of study that may otherwise feel impossible without the proper motivation and personal examples in their everyday lives.”

To learn more, visit www.sandia.gov, and www.citizenschools.org.