National Radio Astronomy Observatory Shines at New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge

Credit: S. Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF

[Albuquerque, New Mexico – January 2024] – The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) marked its presence for the third consecutive year at the prestigious New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge, hosted at the main campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The event brought together over 400 students from various schools across the state to showcase their innovative STEM projects.

NRAO, a proud sponsor of the event, was represented by a dedicated team including Jesse Alexander, Ham Radio Project Lead, from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), Vanshree Bhalotia, Education Specialist, from the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) department’s STEAM Education, and NRAO Jansky Fellow Dr. Julia Blue Bird. The team engaged with students and teachers, evaluating and supporting the projects presented by high school teams.

One of the highlights of NRAO’s participation was the selection of Tohatchi High School, located near Gallup on the Navajo Reservation, as the sponsored team. Their project, a groundbreaking water filtration system using corn husks, impressed the judges and exemplified the fusion of native practices with modern science to address crucial community needs.

Vanshree Bhalotia, representing NRAO’s STEAM Education program, established valuable connections with educators and STEM organizations, including the LANL Foundation. She emphasized the importance of engaging students in STEM projects that have real-world applications and showcased the educational opportunities available at the Very Large Array (VLA).

Reflecting on the event, Jesse Alexander commended the students for their dedication to solving significant challenges. The theme for this year’s challenge was “Now that we live in a post-pandemic world, how can we improve overall mental, physical, or relational health and wellness in our homes, schools, and communities through the use of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)?”

The sponsorship of Tohatchi High School’s project underscored NRAO’s commitment to supporting innovative solutions and fostering STEM talent in New Mexico.

The Governor’s STEM Challenge provided a platform for networking and collaboration, with NRAO aiming to expand its role as a valuable resource for teachers in the state’s STEM education community. The event also facilitated interactions with key figures in the STEM field, including Tobie Baker Wright from LANL and Dean Reilly, who shared insights on social connections and human engineering.

NRAO looks forward to building on the success of its participation at the New Mexico Governor’s STEM Challenge and continuing to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders in the state.


About NRAO

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a facility of the U.S. National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact: 

NRAO Media Contact

Corrina C. Jaramillo Feldman
Public Information Officer – New Mexico
Tel: +1 505-366-7267

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