On December 20, federal employees were invited to find out how to volunteer and give something back this holiday season at the 4th Annual Interagency STEM Volunteer Fair.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the State Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, this event connected federal employees to STEM organizations and government agencies looking for volunteers to support their outreach work. Some groups in attendance included the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s STEM Volunteer Program, BEST Kids Mentoring, Children’s Science Center, the DC Public School System, DC STEM Network, Friendship Public Charter School, Patriots Technology Training Center, the RESET Volunteer Program, and more.
Over 100 employees, including the Energy Department's Chief of Staff Brian McCormack, visited the tables and stands arrayed near the holiday tree in the cafeteria to meet visiting organizations and discuss volunteer opportunities, taking handouts and loads of printed materials. Many of the groups span the DMV region and have opportunities for interested adults (and kids) to join and contribute.
The focus was on finding ways to use one’s talents to inspire the future STEM workforce. In an agency that does as much research and development as DOE, there were many who are both capable and willing to donate their time and talents. One issue that came up was the imbalance between the supply of volunteers and the demand for them; one visitor said that finding enough people to visit the schools they serve presents an ongoing challenge.
Some of the attendees had novel stories to share. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is engaged in supporting young inventors who want to protect their intellectual property; they said that there are lots of junior scientists and inventors who want to pursue careers in science. The Children’s Science Center visitors noted that the kids who come for demonstrations most often want to make “slime,” because it’s fun and easy to do, but they stay to learn more afterward.
This event supports STEM Rising, DOE’s call to inspire, educate, and spark an upwards trajectory to lifelong success through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Ensuring a STEM-ready workforce is a core value of the DOE and our co-hosts, and is central to our current and future mission success. Visit energy.gov/STEM to learn more.