In politics, summits bring together leaders of nations to discuss key issues, resolve challenges and seek opportunities to work together. Likewise, in science, leading researchers in their fields come together at summits to discuss the latest developments and explore future pathways.
But what about a summit that is organized, led and attended exclusively by high school students? This idea formed the basis of a new event supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory — one aimed at enabling high school students to discuss developments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“We created the workshops, we invited the speakers, and we built the event as a whole. We took a leadership role and used our perspective as students to shape this summit into something that we believe is important and impactful for teens.”— Anvi Padhi, ATAC member, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools sophomore
The Argonne Education Teen Advisory Council (ATAC), which bridges Argonne’s Educational Programs and Outreach with teens in local communities, recently put on a summit titled Everyday STEM. It highlighted the importance of STEM in people’s daily lives. The event was the capstone project for the ATAC — the result of several months of planning and working with Argonne staff in the logistics and marketing for the event.
“We created the workshops, we invited the speakers, and we built the event as a whole,” said Anvi Padhi, an ATAC member and sophomore at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. “We took a leadership role and used our perspective as students to shape this summit into something that we believe is important and impactful for teens.”
The virtual summit’s schedule included activities ranging from undergraduate intern panels to sessions on cybersecurity (and how it relates to your phone’s password) to hands-on challenges like recycling everyday items for “bug houses.” Emily Felts, an ATAC member who worked on the bug house idea, said she and her teammates chose that activity because it was both unique and crafty.
“Being a student myself helped me brainstorm fresh ideas that are relevant to today’s teens,” Felts said. “It really helped us make the summit activities engaging to the participants.”
Over the course of the summit, students learned firsthand how STEM research has a direct impact on communities and individuals every day.
“STEM affects our daily lives in crucial ways that we don’t often recognize,” Padhi said. “We subconsciously think about cybersecurity when we determine our phone passwords. Likewise, we often eat genetically engineered food. People sometimes see STEM as strange and scary, but through this event, we helped make it accessible and relevant for everybody.”
With the summit’s success, Argonne hopes to launch similar programs in the future, which will help connect students with the lab’s STEM research, both as participants and as leaders.
“One key aspect of this summit is how the teens in ATAC closely involved themselves in the planning and facilitation of the event,” said Argonne’s STEM outreach coordinator Brandon Pope. “They corresponded with Argonne researchers to design the summit’s breakout sessions, and with creative services staff to design the marketing efforts for the event. By taking part in these responsibilities, they gained an understanding of the inner workings of a large scientific institution such as Argonne, just as the teens in the audience learned how STEM discoveries encompass many more potential applications than they could have imagined.”
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.