Challenge Tomorrow trailers bring cutting-edge science to Peñasco

More than 330 students enjoy the traveling STEM education experience

By David Moore | June 14, 2023

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Seniors from Peñasco High School explore shape memory alloys with Laboratory researcher Jacob Mingear (on the right).

What happens when the Laboratory brings its traveling interactive STEM experience to Peñasco, complete with 30 LANL scientists and technicians? Amidst the laughter and bustle, more than 330 students from rural Northern New Mexico get to experience hands-on science and learn about the range of work that happens at Los Alamos.

Having seen the Challenge Tomorrow trailers at a Laboratory event last year, Bonavita Quinto-MacCallum, the Peñasco Independent School District (PISD) student and family engagement coordinator, immediately thought of her students and others at rural schools.

"After I saw the hands-on learning experience for true engagement in STEM, I knew we had to find a way to let our students in Northern New Mexico connect with the science and careers at LANL," she says. "The trailers bring the research world and the varied career options to learners of all ages in our rural communities."

The Laboratory team set up the trailers at Peñasco High School May 10 and 11 and as well as local students, welcomed visitors from Escalante High School in Tierra Amarilla, Coronado High School in Gallina, and Mesa Vista High School in Ojo Caliente.

A unique opportunity to try Los Alamos science

Among other activities the young people explored erosion protection at a water table, tried to stack blocks with a manipulator arm, and measured and mixed colored 'chemicals' under a pretend fume hood as volunteer Laboratory employees (known as Challenge Ambassadors) talked them through the science and gave them some insights into life at LANL.

"I saw students who typically don't engage in a traditional classroom setting come alive and be excited about science and the real-life tech created at LANL," said Quinto-MacCullum.

"It was great to be able to work with the PISD team to bring the trailers to Peñasco," said Kat Cook, Challenge Tomorrow program coordinator. "Engaging with students from rural New Mexico allows us to show that there are job opportunities for them here in the state. A lot of students were very excited - this is exactly what we want this program to do!”

The Challenge Tomorrow trailers are currently booked through the end of 2023, but you can learn more about having them visit your community here.