Elementary school students with a NNSS volunteer inside a classroom.

Fueling the future through Outreach

Elementary school students with a NNSS volunteer inside a classroom.

The Nevada National Security Sites’ (NNSS) mission is to secure America’s future — and a key component of this work is inspiring the STEM leaders of tomorrow to pursue meaningful careers in support of national security. Year-round, the NNSS Outreach and Engagement team connects with students, from kindergarten through university, to showcase how STEM disciplines translate to various career paths. The NNSS was on full display through a series of March events in the educational community.

Weekend STEM
Each month of the academic year, NNSS professionals spotlight how STEM has inspired and plays a role in their career fields during STEM Saturdays at the Atomic Museum in Las Vegas. From geologic modeling to Fire & Rescue responses to groundwater principles, each STEM Saturday session features a presentation and student activity to connect STEM concepts with working professions.

During the March 2 event, NNSS scientists detailed how the geologic landscape at the Site is conducive for training to explore the lunar surface, which is exactly what NASA astronauts did in 2023 at the NNSS Nevada Space Proving Grounds. Just as the NNSS supported the Apollo program decades ago, NNSS scientists shared how they use the Site’s mission-scale testbeds and infrastructure to help NASA prepare for the upcoming Artemis mission.

Students model the scale of the solar system during STEM Saturday

“At the Site you’ll see projects that are truly globally unique,” said NNSS Principal Scientist Nick Downs. “The Nevada Space Proving Grounds’ astronaut training program is a great example of this. We’re able to support NASA and our country’s space program in unique and important ways, and that’s super exciting! It’s also exciting to see how many students are enthusiastic about space and science. I certainly caught ‘the bug’ when I was their age, and now it’s fun to serve as a mentor for the next generation. Given the costs of higher education, it’s critical that students are aware of and excited about careers that provide a good living and support society at large.”

Readers and future leaders
March marked the NNSS’ latest investment in the foundation of learning — literacy. The NNSS is a proud sponsor of the Clark County School District Book Bus, promoting a love of reading from kindergarten through 12th grade by enabling students to take home titles of their choosing and build their own libraries. The Book Bus has reached 59 schools and more than 28,000 students throughout its regional tours.

In celebration of Nevada Reading Week March 4 to 8, NNSS employees met with students in 22 Helen Anderson Toland International Academy classrooms to read their favorite stories and promote books available through the school library.

Gwendolyn Woolley Elementary School students at the Clark County School District Book Bus
A NNSS volunteer reads to Helen Anderson Toland International Academy students

High school and beyond
Through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Student Interactions with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (SISTEM) program, high school students can engage with professionals to learn how STEM principles are applied in the workforce and the various career opportunities accessible through technology employers like the NNSS.

NNSS Senior Engineer Garrett Oberdin presented a model of how shock physics experiments are conducted. By simulating atmospheric pressure to push a projectile to a target, Oberdin shared how this type of data is used by the NNSS, national laboratories and other governmental agencies through the NNSS’ Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (JASPER) Facility.

Students join the NNSS SISTEM presentation and demonstration

More in 2024
STEM outreach continues with the April 6 STEM Saturday featuring NNSS industrial hygiene; NNSS STEM presentations at the Central Technical Training Academy, South Academic Center and University of Nevada, Las Vegas; sponsorship of the March 30 FIRST Robotics competition; and May 4 Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival Giant Expo, of which the NNSS is the exposition sponsor.

“Empowering students in STEM paves the way for the next generation’s innovators and problem solvers,” said NNSS Outreach and Engagement Manager Jennifer Morgan. “The NNSS is built on a proud legacy of nearly 75 years, and we look forward to engaging with those who will carry out the scientific achievements and milestones of the next 75.”