White House kicks off #WeekAtTheLabs to promote STEM education

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Labs are the new classrooms.

Students were invited to visit some of the nation’s premier labs that are run by the Department of Energy and other agencies and federally funded research centers to get a close look at what it’s like to work in STEM fields.

The program was part of a White House initiative called National Week at the Labs, which launched on Monday and lasts through the week. More than 50 science labs opened their doors to students for visits and mentoring sessions. Students are able to try on STEM careers by performing hands-on experiments instructed by scientists, engineers and lab workers.

A group of fifth-graders from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md., got a chance to come to the White House to hear from seasoned science pros, including U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, a NASA astronaut and top engineers.

“We’re looking for anything we can do to make you in the audience, and our virtual audience as well, realize that laboratories are places where we discover things,” NASA astronaut Cady Coleman said at the event. “And we need everybody’s imagination to do these kinds of discoveries.”

With photos and videos, Coleman showed kids around the space station where she lived for six months. In the video, Coleman could be seen floating in the air with her hair spread out around her face like a wild mane. Through the window of the space station, green northern lights sparkled above Earth.

“This is what it looks like actually every night when I look out,” Coleman said. “But nighttime for me is every 45 minutes. We go around the earth 16 times every single day. I did that for six months.”

National Week at the Labs was inspired by the White House National Lab Day. Two other organizations, the White House Council on Women and Girls, and My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, coordinated the event.

The White House also announced new STEM and entrepreneurship tracks of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which will provide opportunities in STEM education and careers for young students from diverse backgrounds.

Universities and libraries across the country are encouraged to invite local students into their classrooms and labs. Marvin Carr, policy advisor to Smith, estimated that 4,500 kids will get a chance to visit the labs that are opened during the week.

Reach the reporter at yizhu.wang@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @yizhuevy.

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