As fiscal year 2021 has drawn to a close, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this year’s success, including the recent winners of the first annual Awards for Excellence in Education and Public Engagement. With the support of the entire Fermilab community, the Office of Education and Public Engagement was able to reach across the globe to share Fermilab science. While a year of virtual programs offered a unique challenge, it also offered unique opportunities.
We were able to reach across the globe with amazing programs such as the Virtual Family Open House, which reached more than 10,000 people in five days, and the Arts and Lecture Series at Home programming, which has been attended by more than 10,000 people and viewed by over half a million people on YouTube since its debut in July 2020. The long-standing QuarkNet program went virtual and presented 39 Masterclasses with 21 video conferences in the 2021 season, including 11 MINERvA masterclasses. Students in each session used real data from a high-energy physics experiment to make a physics measurement.
In the case of MINERvA, students used data from neutrino interactions with carbon nuclei that created a muon and a proton to measure the diameter of a carbon nucleus. Teachers consistently say that participating in a masterclass is one of the high points of the year for their students. The Physics Slam! was also held virtually. The 800 people in attendance voted and Lauren Biron and her awards show, The Golden Particles, took home the virtual trophy. The Slam! videos have been viewed by over 25,000 people combined. Saturday Morning Physics continued its 40 year streak unbroken and graduated the largest class in history, with 129 students completing the program in the fall of 2020.
In addition to our virtual reach, we’ve taken this time to set the future course for EPE and to make improvements to our physical spaces. With the help of the broader Fermilab community, we finalized a new EPE strategic plan to guide this office through the next five years. The Lederman Science Center (LSC) is also in the process of being modernized. The Teacher Resource Center was decommissioned to make room for a new Fermilab MakerSpace. Exhibit signage has been redone and now includes Spanish translations. Groundwork is being laid to upgrade even more sections of the LSC indoor and outdoor areas.
For the first time Fermilab participated in the DuPage County Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program. ACT-SO is a nationwide program sponsored by the NAACP that encourages high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students. The seven-month local program features leadership development sessions, one-on-one mentorship and service activities. The DuPage County ACT-SO program culminates in an academic competition, where students present projects developed under the guidance of mentors, and an Awards Banquet in March. The gold medalists then compete against winners from other cities at the national ACT-SO finals, held during the NAACP National Convention in July. Two Fermilab mentors, Manolis Kargiantoulakis and Marco Mambelli, worked with students over the past year. One student received a gold medal at the regional competition and competed at the national level. Both mentors and students said the program was rewarding for all involved:
“I found ACT-SO to be a very well-structured program. Besides the mentor working with the student on the research project, parents are recruited as support and the program managers are also present. Then there is also a series of enrichment activities to grow the expertise of the students. The results are really interesting and high-quality projects [are offered].It is a significant effort to work with the students but all the surrounding factors help to reach satisfying results.”
“My student’s interests in medicine and health were outside of my own expertise, but I could still use my skills in data analysis and simulations to guide her into a strong research project. She won the Gold Medal in the local competition and went on to present at the NAACP National Convention. The ACT-SO program is demanding but it is also very empowering for the students. I hope they will see themselves as the scientists of tomorrow.”
The EPE office could not have shared Fermilab science with our community without the help of the more than 200 employees and users who supported our efforts in 2021. The EPE office hosted a recognition event as a show of thanks and looks forward to holding this event each fall. Six people were presented with the newly established annual Award for Excellence in Education and Public Engagement. These individuals went above and beyond in FY21 to help the mission of Fermilab EPE. Please consider nominating a colleague for next year. The FY2021 awardees are (clockwise from top left in photo below):
- Dave Dykstra
For shepherding the Fermilab Arts and Lecture Series through its transition to virtual programming and for ensuring that it maintained the high quality for which the program is known.
- Valerie Higgins
For her support of the Arts and Lecture Series as a member of the Auditorium Committee, as a volunteer for the Art Gallery, and as a regular speaker in the series.
- Elvin Harms Jr.
For his dedication in reaching the public through significant contributions to the Virtual Fermilab Family Open House and the classroom presentation program.
- Cindy Joe
For her constant and versatile support of all EPE programming, her incredible willingness to help, and her skill in engaging learners of all ages.
- Wally Levernier
For his dedication to and enthusiasm for educating the public about the nature and ecology of Fermilab through numerous talks, presentations, hands-on activities and lessons, and a Physics Slam presentation.
- Alyssa Miller
For serving as a powerful role model for students and teachers through her classroom visits, teacher workshops, and public talks.
In spite of the challenges of FY21, thanks to the entirety of Fermilab, EPE had an excellent year. We are excited to work with the Fermilab community in FY22. For those interested in getting involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.