A girl dances in front of a high-speed camera at technology exposition.

VIDEO: Sparking STEM discoveries at the NNSS-sponsored Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival Giant Expo

A girl dances in front of a high-speed camera at technology exposition.

More than 9,000 members of the Southern Nevada community flocked to the World Market Center Saturday, May 4, for the annual Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival Giant Expo, proudly sponsored by the Nevada National Security Sites (NNSS).

Central to the exhibit hall were hands-on NNSS demonstrations, featuring infrared imaging, laser beams, high-speed cameras, electromagnets, Fire & Rescue robotics and 1950s Seagrave fire engine, a gas gun, fiber optics and more. Watch the experiments in action in this video:

“The moments when a concept clicks in a student’s mind are some of the most gratifying moments I’ve ever had working at the NNSS,” said NNSS Senior Engineer Garrett Oberdin. “I think STEM concepts can be intimidating to students; at least they were to me, and sometimes still are. What I feel are some of the most valuable aspects of the STEM Outreach program is the confidence it fosters in students and the encouragement to look at themselves as capable problem solvers.

“I also think it’s critically important for them to get to solve the problem and answer their own questions with guidance during the events. To demonstrate how capable they are to themselves. That way, when the problems are harder, or maybe they feel insecure of their ability, they can think back to times like the STEM interactions and think, ‘Well, I must be smart because I helped that engineer with their demonstration.’ I think sometimes people can lose sight of how much children hold on to things, even teens. If they feel like someone believes in them, even if it’s a random scientist or engineer, they’ll remember, and hopefully, believe in themselves a little more.”

A NNSS firefighter puts a firefighter's suit on a boy.
Two girls jump in front of a high-speed camera catching bubbles.
A NNSS employee explains an experiment to a boy,
A NNSS employee demonstrates a fiber optic experiment.
A NNSS employee demonstrates a laser experiment with a boy.
A NNSS firefighter meets a boy next to a red fire engine.

Nearly 70 exhibitors participated in this year’s exposition, which strives to cultivate science and technology connections in the community’s youth through accessible, educational and engaging programming that inspires a potential STEM career path. Each year, the Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival aims to inspire even the youngest students through first-hand experiences of the technological innovation happening in their own backyards.

“The sooner we are made aware of questions larger than ourselves, the broader our perspectives become,” said NNSS Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research Diagnostics Manager Erick Diaz. “Giving young learners a glimpse, however incomplete or surface level, into the wider world of scientific endeavor makes a space in their consciousness for the unknown and fantastic. We have to expend every resource necessary to carve out that space, as it is within that strange mental realm that the stuff of human progress is stored.”

Events like the Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival also open the gateway to a potential career for student internships and careers at the NNSS.

“I think the NNSS is a great place for students,” added Oberdin. “The internship program, which is how I found my way here, is great. The development opportunities it opened for me built a great foundation for my career. Additionally, every manager I have been under while with NNSS has been more than supportive of me continuing my education while working. In terms of career opportunities, I think the sheer number of high-caliber technical staff at the NNSS says a lot more than I ever could. Things are done here that aren’t done anywhere else, and largely can’t be done anywhere else thanks to the uniqueness of the Site.” For more information about Outreach & Engagement’s year-round STEM and community activities, visit the NNSS Outreach webpage.

A group of employees stand beneath a NNSS sign in an exposition hall.