Students’ voices are being incorporated into educational programs at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory through the engagement of Argonne Education’s Teen Advisory Council (ATAC) — a group run by students for students. Founded in 2021, the ATAC consists of teen volunteers who collaborate with Argonne’s Educational Programs and Outreach group to provide input on educational programs that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for students.
“Being on the council is one of the best ways for teens become involved with Argonne. You get to experience the Lab’s diverse research and education programs firsthand — and help make those programs possible for everyone.” — Vibhasri Yama, ATAC member
The council’s unique perspective will help make Argonne more relevant and more connected with teens and student groups throughout Chicago. “Incorporating youth voice into our department helps increase the impact of our programs for teens. This ensures that we will continue to meet their needs as learners,” said Kelly Sturner, Argonne’s Learning Center program coordinator. “Meanwhile, we share with our council the amazing work and community of our Laboratory, inviting them to explore their STEM interests with us.”
One of the biggest projects for ATAC this spring is the Everyday STEM Summit, a virtual event for teens set for May 14. “Our goal is to highlight keynote speakers’ STEM paths while making the science relevant in people’s day-to-day lives,” said council member Alp Demirtas.
“I’m excited to see it all come together into something that will be a lot of fun for everyone. We are creating this by ourselves to benefit Chicago communities, and we’re all proud of what we have come up with. This will be a stepping stone to show how the ATAC can further the mission of Argonne.”
While being on the ATAC is a big responsibility for its student members, they have greatly appreciated the experience and being able to shape Argonne’s STEM programming.
“Meeting people with different perspectives yet a common passion for STEM, and learning about their experiences, is a dream come true for me,” said ATAC member Vibhasri Yama. “The council is ideal for teenagers interested in getting started with Argonne for the first time. It offers a panoramic view of all the programs. Step-by-step, meeting-by-meeting, it’s just a great way to see the work being done here.”
In addition to the ATAC’s biweekly virtual meetings, they keep busy and in contact with each other between the official meetings. “It’s really a long-term effort. After school each day, we collaborate to develop [social media] posts, or give feedback on Argonne’s programs and activities such as the virtual escape room,” said Yama. “Being on the council is one of the best ways for teens to become involved with Argonne. You get to experience the Lab’s diverse research and education programs firsthand — and help make those programs possible for everyone.”
Though the group is only about a year old, the Argonne Education Teen Advisory Council appears to have a promising future in store. “I’m really proud of the community that we’ve created,” said Demirtas. “There are a lot of different angles and initiatives we can take moving forward. I’m also excited to see how the council will connect science with high school experiences in communities that traditionally have fewer STEM opportunities. The vision is very bright for the ATAC, and we’re just getting started.”
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.