WIPP Contractor Helps Fund Student STEM Centers in Southeast New Mexico

1 year ago

CARLSBAD, N.M.EM’s main contractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) helped fund two centers for an area school district where students can stretch their imaginations while honing their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills by exploring electric circuit boards, tiny robots, and other unique gadgets.

Each Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation STEM Center mobile laboratory comes equipped with innovative classroom kits full of STEM toys designed to inspire lifelong interest in STEM. Students can learn how to build a circuit to motor fans, power lights, or even charge phones. The Evo Ozobots are electronic circuit robots about the size of a coffee pod that follow hand-drawn or computer-printed color diagrams to encourage students to code creatively. The centers are also outfitted with 3D printers and printer supplies.

Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) was one of three major employers in southeastern New Mexico that helped fund the STEM centers at Jefferson and Sanger elementary schools for Hobbs Municipal Schools earlier this year. The two other employers are oil-producing companies Devon Energy and EOG Resources.

“We want the children in our state, and especially in our region, to have access to the best learning tools available for STEM education,” said Sean Dunagan, NWP president and project manager. “Centers like these foster a passion for science and math and we are proud to contribute to opening the STEM centers at Jefferson and Sanger elementary schools.”

The foundation provides hands-on training to educators to learn how to use the tools. Marisol Forrister, a fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, received the training.

“Thank you all so much. We are super excited and grateful. The training was awesome. My students are ready,” she said.

During the training, the teachers and staff from Jefferson learned how students can take part in real world problem-solving at the STEM centers. For example, they explore coding and sequencing, which are foundational to writing a computer program or building a website. They also learn about electrical work, using electronic building blocks connected by magnets to create circuits that use buttons, switches, motors, and other elements.

“STEM centers like these inspire, educate, and spark lifelong success in STEM fields,” said Khushroo Ghadiali, NWP community and governmental affairs coordinator, who assisted in organizing the training and opening for the STEM centers. “NWP prioritizes investing in education in the surrounding area in the hope that one day the individuals we supported as children are encouraged to join a STEM related field as an adult, or even better a STEM related field with WIPP.”

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