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School Visit
NETL Promotes STEM Education at Pennsylvania School Event

Paul Ohodnicki, Ph.D., of NETL’s Functional Materials team, visited Central Elementary School in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, May 31 to share his expertise in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by assisting with Hampton Township School District’s Science Olympiad. With support from the Lab’s STEM K-12 Education & Outreach team, Ohodnicki encouraged students to solve real-world engineering problems through application of the engineering design process during the event.

The Olympiad was split into five sessions of 16 fourth- and fifth-grade students over two days. Ohodnicki kicked off the occasion with opening remarks that discussed his career path and finding solutions to the nation’s energy problems, as well as the similarities and differences between engineers and scientists. In between Science Olympiad events, Ohodnicki, Education & Outreach team member Mario Rybacki and program lead Ken Mechling engaged students in activities that characterized the engineering design process, such as manipulating consumable materials in novel ways to solve a problem. Students discovered the importance of design/redesign, collaboration and problem-solving throughout the day.

Ohodnicki’s research and science expertise at NETL served as a real-world example of following a STEM career path to students. Ohodnicki is a materials scientist whose work focuses on the discovery and development of innovative sensor technologies designed to enhance the efficiency, reliability, resiliency and safety of advanced energy and electricity delivery systems. He has been honored for his work with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the U.S. government’s highest honor for scientists or engineers in the early stages of their careers, and other awards. Click here to learn more about his work and path to NETL.

“The Science Olympiad encourages students to collaborate and learn together, which are two key concepts in STEM learning,” Ohodnicki said. “Becoming involved in science-themed topics at a young age is critical to encouraging positive attitudes about STEM topics, and events like the Science Olympiad make this possible.”

Challenging students with science-based problems enhances critical thinking skills and encourages creative problem-solving, which boasts numerous real-life benefits. NETL’s K-12 Education & Outreach efforts bring “hands-on, minds-on” activities to communities to encourage children’s future success in STEM.