Four Unique STEM Study Visits with Berkeley Lab

Students from Richmond High School's Engineering Academy at the Energy Innovation BLEND Study Visit

Students from the College & Career Pathways program worked alongside world-class scientists and engineers as part of four unique study visits piloted in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Workforce Development & Education team. Over the course of several months, teachers in the academies collaborated with Berkeley Lab staff on translating cutting-edge science into high school level learning. These genuine STEM hands-on learning experiences allowed students to “step into the shoes” of various scientific and technical careers to really bring STEM alive.

Below are just a few of the quotes from student participants about their experience:

“I really liked to see someone from the same thread/place that I come from who’s really out there making a difference in the community. Truly inspirational!”

“Thank you so much for giving us a tour and explaining what you do on a daily basis. The jobs that are here are very interesting, in the way how it all works out in the Labs. Also all the new things that have been discovered. Not only that but thank you for helping out and giving advice about picking a major and all.”

“This really made me want to continue to pursue Electrical Engineering as a whole. Being able to talk to scientists and engineers about their careers, lives, and their path to where they are now made me look more into what I wanna do and how I wanna go about becoming an Electrical Engineer.”

Each of the four innovative study trips aligned to a different Pathway, each combining facility tours, career networking, and project-based learning activities:

The ALS Experience

As part of a pilot program to strengthen the STEM career pipeline in the East Bay, Workforce Development & Education and the Advanced Light Source collaborated on a high school study trip: The ALS Experience.

The Advanced Light Source is a unique particle accelerator that generates incredibly bright beams of x-ray light for scientific research in a range of disciplines including Energy, Physical, Materials, Biological, Chemical, as well as Earth and Environmental Science. Students from Pinole Valley High School’s Health Academy, designed a crystallography research project with scientists from Beamline 12.2.2 to understand the crystalline form of aspirin. Learn more about the students’ visit in this photo exposure piece from Berkeley Lab. Special thanks to Christine Beavers, Dula Parkinson, and the ALS staff for making this visit possible.

Energy Innovation

Students from Richmond H.S.’s Engineering Academy pitching their residential home designs to Berkeley Lab mentors.

The Energy Innovation study visit piloted with Richmond High School’s Engineering Academy featured a day of facility tours, networking with career professionals, and workshops from innovative residential building technologies to research and fabrication of energy efficient materials on the nanoscale. This trip supplemented the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Civil Engineering curriculum as students brought to the Lab their residential building designs and worked side-by-side with scientists and engineers to discuss and build upon their choices in Indoor Air Quality, Water Usage, Energy Conservation, and Environmental Impact. Special thanks to our partners with the Energy Technologies Area, the Innovation and Partnership Office, and the Molecular Foundry for making this trip happen.

Microbes-to-Biomes

Students from Hercules H.S. classify microbial communities in their soil samples as part of the Microbes-to-Biomes study visit.

What is the microbial health of soil in your community? How can you advocate for better practices to improve local conditions? These were the questions asked of students from Hercules High School to explore in a month-long experiment to identify, gather and then test soil samples from their community at Berkeley Lab. Working with scientists from Earth and Environmental Science (EESA), students conducted experiments in classifying and quantifying microbes, determining DNA biomass using DNA Fluorescence, and measuring biological activity in the various soil samples. At the culmination of the day, students presented their findings and ways in which they could improve soil conditions in their school and community. Special thanks to Eoin Brodie, Javier Ceja Navarro, Shi Wang, and the Microbes-to-Biomes team for thir collaboration on this study visit.

Big Data

Students from the IT Academy at El Cerrito H.S. taking part in a BLEND Study Visit centered around Big Data.

Over 90 students from El Cerrito and Kennedy High School’s Information Technology Academies took part in the Big Data study visit. Here students got hands-on experience in R, a coding language used by scientists for statistical analysis, to understand the impact of the recent North Bay wildfires on water resources in Sonoma County. Later, they applied these skills in a “Big Data Challenge Project” where they worked in teams with a scientist mentor to design a research experiment to understand the environmental impact of a contaminated site on San Pablo Bay. In addition to learning about the challenges and opportunities afforded by big data, students got to see, touch, and explore the machines that make the computing power possible through a tour of the former and current supercomputers at Berkeley Lab. Special thanks to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), the Energy Science Network (EsNET), and Earth and Environmental Science (EESA) for their support in developing the curriculum and workshops for this visit. Read more about the Big Data Study Trip in Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences article.

These four study visits gave Pathway students a remarkable opportunity to have hands-on experience in STEM research, technologies and insight into scientific and technical careers. What a great way to bring STEM alive to our students!