STEM San Joaquin Conference celebrates 31 years

STEM San Joaquin Conf_Group pic (Download Image)

LLNL plasma physicist Tammy Ma served as the keynote speaker, inspiring more than 400 attendees at the 1st annual San Joaquin Conference (formerly known as San Joaquin Expanding Your Horizons) in Stockton.

The STEM San Joaquin Conference, formerly known as San Joaquin Expanding Your Horizons, invited students grades 6-12 for its annual event on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

At the conference, students had the opportunity to explore and learn more about careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in a fun environment. This year marked the 1st annual San Joaquin Conference, formerly known as San Joaquin Expanding Your Horizons for the past 30 years — this year’s theme was “Take a bite out of STEM.”

The schedule for the conference included an opening ceremony, three hands-on workshops, lunch and a closing ceremony where prize winners were announced.

Upon arrival, students were greeted and welcomed to register. At registration, they were gifted branded T-shirts and then were seated for the opening ceremony. For the opening ceremony, Tammy Ma, a plasma physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), who is a member of the LLNL team that achieved ignition in December 2022, was the keynote speaker. Ma shared her inspirational story about her career journey in STEM and the importance of introducing young people to careers in STEM.

STEM San Joaquin Conf_Ubiquitous Electronics
This year marked the 20th set of Ubiquitous Electronics workshops for workshop presenter Michael Taranowski. During this workshop, students learned how to solder.

“The STEM San Joaquin Conference is a special event in which LLNL employees get to share their love for STEM with young people," she said. "My passion for science was in large part due to the Lab outreach events I attended when I grew up in Fremont, so it was very much an honor to be this year’s keynote speaker.”

After the opening ceremony, students attended three workshops that provided hands-on science or math-related activities. Students were able to interact with professionals and science enthusiasts during the workshops. Attendance per workshop was limited to about 20 students to keep the instruction personal and interactive. Some of the available workshops included learning how to program robots, using sewing machines to create light-up wearables, solving a cybercrime, making ice cream aquifers, learning about computer repair and networking and much more.

“It was really inspiring seeing nearly 400 students in attendance from across Northern California. You can’t put a price on seeing the excitement of the students first-hand as they participate in the various STEM workshops,” said Alex Murray, co-chair of the STEM San Joaquin Conference and software developer at LLNL.

STEM San Joaquin Conf_Michael Taranowski
The “Subzero Science: Liquid Nitrogen Workshop” showcased the effects of liquid nitrogen and low temperatures on a variety of everyday objects and talking about the scientific principles behind the demonstration.

At the closing ceremony, attendees were shown a slideshow of photos from the day and prize winners were announced.

The STEM San Joaquin Conference was a major success thanks to the dedicated efforts from the STEM San Joaquin Board and the volunteers. Most of the volunteers and the core planning team of board members were from LLNL.

The STEM San Joaquin Board works on planning throughout the year and is comprised of conference Co-chairs Murray and Jeene Villanueva, STEM Outreach Program Manager Joanna Albala; Workshop Chair Cary Gellner; Registration Chair Carolyn Hall;  Volunteer Chair Sharon Langman; Chaperone Chair Alicia Short; Finance Chair Teri York;  Emcee and Photography/Social Media Chair Carrie Martin; VIP Chair Martha Campiotti (Sandia National Laboratories); and Facilities Chair Nancy Elium Shaw (Univ of the Pacific).

Special guests attending the event included: Director of Academic Engagement: Eric Schwegler (LLNL); Director of Laboratory Oversight: Bill Stern (LLNL); and Director of Chemical Combustion and Materials Science: Sarah Allendorf (Sandia National Laboratories).

Participants who attended the conference from grades 6-12 for the past seven years included: Neferet Chavez, Saachi Arora, Alejandra Ochoa, TaRiah Hall, Mary Long and Julieana Carranza.

With the participation of the students, the STEM San Joaquin Conference achieved its goal: to spark interest and raise awareness about careers in STEM — and have a positive impact on the lives of young minds.