Education outreach promoted by SRS and WIPP

January 29, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News
WIPP’s Joy James-Foster (left) visited SRNS’s Kim Mitchell to learn about how to establish a Regional Science Bowl in Carlsbad, N.M. (Photo: SRNS)

A program manager from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant recently visited the Savannah River Site to benchmark an education outreach program’s successful science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach initiatives, which have been in place with local schools since 2008.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) is the Department of Energy’s management and operating contractor at SRS.

The connection: Joy James-Foster, WIPP education outreach lead, has followed SRS education outreach online for years, taking note of and learning from various STEM-related programs. After virtually connecting with SRNS education outreach program lead Kim Mitchell, Foster traveled from Carlsbad, N.M., to Aiken, S.C., to learn from SRS.

“The SRS education outreach program caught my eye after WIPP’s new contractor, Salado Isolation Mining Contractors, aimed to host the first Regional Science Bowl in our area as part of our community commitment plan,” said Foster. “After multiple virtual meetings with Kim, I decided to take the chance and travel to South Carolina in hopes that this program would positively impact the underserved and rural populations of Carlsbad.”

The 2023 DOE Savannah River Site Regional Science Bowl Competition’s winner. Lakeside High School-Team 1, of Evans, Georgia, advanced to the Department of Energy National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.

School involvement: Foster and Mitchell spent three days analyzing mock science bowls, listing the materials and labor needed to launch the initiative, and touring the University of South Carolina–Aiken—the facility that has hosted SRNS Regional Science Bowls for more than 15 years.

The event tests high school students’ knowledge of science and offers them a chance to be nationally recognized. SRS has participated annually at the regional level since the DOE created the National Science Bowl in 1991.

“I am determined to connect our organization with the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” said Foster. “This benchmarking session helped pave the way for WIPP to establish a strong education outreach program and regional science bowl and that is all thanks to the mentorship I received from Kim.”

Other activities: In addition to the Regional Science Bowl, SRNS education outreach programs include STEM that Travels, CSRA College Night, CSRA Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Innovative Teaching Mini Grants, various workshops, and site tours.

Mitchell and Foster plan to continue future workforce development and education outreach initiatives at both DOE sites.

“It is the sincerest form of flattery to have someone take note of our accomplishments and aim to mirror our community initiatives in another state,” said Mitchell. “Joy is very dedicated to her program and has already established her own version of Mini Grants, Engineers Week, and scholarship receptions at WIPP. This was the next step in taking her program to the next level while establishing a strong relationship with SRS.”

Notes: In addition to education outreach in their host communities, SRS and WIPP share roles in the DOE's cleanup efforts, as defense-related transuranic waste shipments from SRS are shipped to WIPP for safe disposal.

SRNS, a Fluor and Huntington Ingalls Industries partnership company, is responsible for the management and operations of SRS, located near Aiken, S.C.

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