ORNL’s Partners in Learning Science

Whitney Brown operates a robot used for educational purposes in one of ORNL’s Ecological and Physical Sciences Study Center programs. Lee Irons examines a fingerprint on a glass in the SciCops program administered by ORNL’s Office of University and Science Education, in partnership with ORNL’s Center for Applied Science and Technology for Law Enforcement, and the Knox County Sheriff’s Department.

In addition to kicking soccer balls on grassy fields, some of today’s students are doing hands-on science, mathematics, and technology in the lab or field at ORNL. In the summer, they attend science camps. In the winter, they participate in classroom activities such as using computers to perform difficult calculations or to search out scientific information on the Internet.

Through partnerships with schools, ORNL
provides science, mathematics, and
technology training for precollege
students and teachers and research opportunities for college
students and professors.

Teachers participate in similar learning activities, all arranged through ORNL’s Office of University and Science Education. Through educational partnerships with schools and school systems in the southeastern United States, ORNL provides science, mathematics, and technology training for precollege students and teachers. Teacher and student development programs have been offered not only at the Oak Ridge complex but also at other sites, including those in states served by two of our partners—the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Appalachian Rural System Initiative.

In support of the Oak Ridge Centers for Manufacturing Technology, headquartered at the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant, student programs have been presented for the Governor’s School for Manufacturing, which engages students in the study of engineering, technological, and business strategies that govern advanced manufacturing. It is a real challenging program of study and practical application for the high school students interested in manufacturing. Working with the Office of National Security Programs at the Y-12 Plant, we developed and provided a program for teachers on nuclear weapons nonproliferation issues.

Thirty-one teachers from school systems across the state participated in our Adventures in Supercomputing program. They learned to be system administrators of special workstations. They were trained to “empower” fellow teachers and students by giving them local control in establishing and maintaining electronic mail accounts and in using advanced scientific visualization capabilities.

Many of the students in these programs will return to ORNL in later years to join the diverse groups of university science, math, engineering, and technology students who perform research annually at ORNL as undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates. These higher-education students serve as members of teams that explore and solve cutting-edge problems or help develop state-of-the-art techniques and instrumentation that provide approaches to answering important scientific questions.

Consider these two success stories involving university students working at ORNL. The designs of a former DOE high school honors student, who participated later as a University of Tennessee senior in mechanical engineering, are being built and used at ORNL and in a national textile research project. A student from Purdue University analyzed emissions of carbon dioxide from the cement industry and published a report that has become the international standard; it is now cited in United Nations documents as part of the recommended methodology by which all nations will report emissions of greenhouse gases.

Our young students may be joined, or even brought, by university faculty who collaborate with ORNL scientists and engineers and take advantage of facilities at the Laboratory that aid them in their campus-based research. These collaborations help achieve a higher potential in research, both for the Laboratory and for the universities. University visitors often say that the ORNL experience has steered their career paths into specific technical areas.

Whatever the level, wherever the interest, ORNL, through its technical staff of scientists and engineers working with the Office of University and Science Education, stands ready to nurture the future scientists, engineers, and leaders of U.S. industry, universities, and laboratories, including ORNL. As in kids’ soccer, everybody wins.

Next article