Last Wednesday was the first annual Federal STEM Volunteer Fair. A joint effort by the Department of Energy and the Office of Personnel Management, the event’s mission is to encourage federal workers and the broader Washington, D.C. community to engage in volunteer opportunities that advance STEM education. This is, of course, right up SciStarter’s alley, and I got opportunity to represent SciStarter at the event.
While the day was gray, the enthusiasm indoors was high. There were a lot of different organizations present and I found it inspiring to see the number of organizations committed to improving science education.
- GreatMinds in STEM, which provides underserved Hispanic communities academic and professional support for STEM careers.
- FIRST, which holds student competitions to design devices that solve everyday problems such a monitoring temperature fluctuations in refrigerators. With support from the US Patent and Trademark Offices’ Office of Education and Outreach, some of these devices are currently in the pipeline for patents. Not bad for a high school science project!
At SciStarter’s table, the majority of visitors were STEM educators and program administrators interested in developing new and engaging ways to bring science into the classroom. Most had never heard about citizen science and the opportunities available, so our presence was a great opportunity to spread the word. One feature of our website which they and other educators will likely find useful is our growing Educator’s Page. Here, folks will be able to find projects that our team has screened as being appropriate for elementary, high school or college students.
I also got some potential citizen scientists to sign up for our bimonthly newsletter where, among other newsworthy items, we feature five projects under a theme every two weeks. If you haven’t already, sign up at the bottom of our home page!
Hopefully, some of our new members will be interested in becoming SciStarter ambassadors – individuals who volunteering their time to bring citizen science projects to classrooms. If you think this might interest you, or would like more information don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think it is safe to say the fair was a success. While, this year the fair was hosted by the Department of Energy, organizers plan to rotate the location in the upcoming years to encourage support from other agencies. I know I am looking forward to next year and just a high, if not higher, turnout!
Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.