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After taking first place in their respective regional Science Bowl competitions, Suncrest Middle School (Morgantown, West Virginia) and North Allegheny Cyber Academy (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) competed in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl® middle school preliminary and elimination rounds Saturday, May 8. Out of 52 teams consisting of 2,720 middle school students from across the country, Suncrest Middle School finished in the top 32 and North Allegheny Cyber Academy finished in the top 16. The National Science Bowl is a nationwide competition held annually to promote science and technology in education. High school students compete as teams in an action-packed quiz bowl format to answer questions on science, math and engineering. First-place winners of regional competitions from across the country competed over the weekend in three preliminary rounds, with the top 32 teams advancing to the elimination rounds. All events were held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Powerful Presentations
Throughout March, NETL’s inaugural Powerful Posters series provided the Lab’s research associates in the Professional Internship Program (PIP), Postgraduate Research Program (PGRP), and Faculty Research Program administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) with an opportunity to gain valuable research presentation experience. Powerful Posters allowed participants to display what they learned while researching under their respective NETL mentors currently in a virtual setting due to the pandemic. In addition to displaying their research, the participants got to connect with other NETL researchers, practice summarizing research and presenting it attractively, prepare for future poster sessions and competitions at professional meetings and conferences, and add to their presentation experience. A total of nine research associates presented their Powerful Posters to about 40 NETL researchers and staff.
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $17.3 million for college internships, research opportunities, and research projects that connect talented science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students and faculty with the world-class resources at DOE’s National Laboratories. Awardees represent academic institutions from all across America—including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)—highlighting DOE’s commitment to supporting a highly-skilled, diverse workforce that is equipped to tackle the science, energy, environmental, and national security challenges of today and tomorrow. “By investing in STEM students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, we can ignite the most creative and innovative ideas to solve our biggest problems and maximize our competitiveness,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE and the Biden Administration are committed to nurturing a skilled workforce that looks like America, and these awards will help us prepare rising stars everywhere to dream up the very best solutions for our nation and our people.”
Team 1 from North Allegheny Cyber Academy, located in Wexford, Pennsylvania, claimed victory at the 30th annual Western Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowl (WPASB) middle school competition, organized and sponsored by NETL. The event was held March 6, 2021, in a virtual format. Twenty-two teams from 13 school districts from across the state participated in the competition. The WPASB tested students’ knowledge of math and science with preliminary and elimination competition rounds. High school teams competed Saturday, Feb. 27. Coming in at second, third and fourth place in the middle school competition were Jefferson Middle School (Mt. Lebanon), North Allegheny Cyber Academy Team 2 (Wexford) and Marshall Middle School (Wexford), respectively.
Kristyn and Don
Two new features — Research Associate Spotlight and Mentor Profiles — will be published quarterly to showcase the valuable contributions made by interns at NETL and the important role the Lab’s researchers play in guiding them toward success. In this quarter’s Research Associate Spotlight, Kristyn Johnson, a graduate intern, explains how her NETL internship has offered “every imaginable opportunity and advantage” to prepare for a rewarding career. Johnson also discusses how she has enjoyed collaborating with world-renowned researchers, including her mentor Don Ferguson, developing new skills and accessing powerful tools such as the Lab’s supercomputer Joule 2.0 to complete projects.
Franklin Regional High School, located in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, claimed victory at the 30th annual Western Pennsylvania Regional Science Bowl (WPASB) high school competition, organized and sponsored by NETL. The event was held Feb. 27, 2021, in a virtual format. Thirty-seven teams from 23 school districts throughout the state participated in the competition. The WPASB tested students’ knowledge of math and science with preliminary and elimination competition rounds. The middle school competition will be held Saturday, March 6. Coming in at second, third and fourth place were North Allegheny Cyber Academy (Wexford), Sewickley Academy (Sewickley) and Winchester Thurston School (Pittsburgh), respectively. This year, teams did not play head-to-head matches and instead competed against all other teams in the virtual competition. Each regional competition had at least two preliminary rounds, in which each individual team was read the same sets of questions during each round. The teams with the highest combined point totals from all preliminary rounds advanced to the Elimination Tournament.
NETL’s STEM Education & Outreach Team supports all types of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning — even if that learning takes place through a screen. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and into 2021, team members have stayed busy by preparing virtual activities and participating in online events that continue to bring STEM education, information on science career paths and more to students and science professionals during a time of great uncertainty. In the last year, NETL developed the first in a series of virtual Meet A Scientist events to increase the accessibility of the Lab’s research and directly engage with K-12 students in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and rural Oregon. Interested participants submitted questions through NETL’s social media accounts, with researchers addressing selected questions through a live virtual event. Researchers were able to speak about their career pathways and exciting research roles during the event. Future Meet a Scientist events are slated to occur, so check NETL’s social media to learn about future dates and topics.
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As NETL turns its attention to inspiring the next generation of energy researchers this month, the Lab is presenting four fun and engaging engineering activities that parents can enjoy with their children. These classic educational experiences will help build critical thinking skills that can spur an early interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Blanket Fort Build a childhood memory! This is fun activity for both parents and children that also helps with learning about engineering through play. Is this a fort that can fit the whole family? Is this a jungle hideout or a mad scientist’s lair? Suggested supplies:
Science Bowl
The West Virginia Science Bowl tested students’ knowledge of math and science topics. Middle school teams competed Friday, followed by high school students on Saturday. With the shift to a virtual setting, this year’s Science Bowl followed a slightly altered format; teams competed individually instead of head-to-head with the highest scoring teams moving up. The final winning teams in the two events will compete in the National Science Bowl. Coming in at second, third and fourth place were Morgantown High School teams 1 and 2, of Monongalia County, and Williamstown High School, of Wood County, respectively. In the middle school division, second, third and fourth place were awarded to Triadelphia Middle School Team 1, of Ohio County, Williamstown Middle School, of Wood County, and Triadelphia Middle School Team 2 respectively.
As one of NETL’s most prolific researchers, Ranjani Siriwardane is listed as co-inventor of 25 U.S. patents and has earned numerous scientific awards for discoveries that have had a profound impact on the production of clean and affordable electricity. None of those accomplishments, however, would have been possible without the support of family members, teachers and others who recognized Siriwardane’s early interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and encouraged her to pursue her dreams and overcome obstacles she faced growing up in Sri Lanka, an island nation in South Asia.