Project iLASER: Celebrating the Joy of STEM Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

Sunday, February 14, 2016
David Brown, Southwestern College, Chula Vista, CA
Project iLASER (investigations with Light And Sustainable Energy Resources) is a National Science Foundation-supported endeavor, initially established to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011). Continuing far beyond IYC 2011 and logging more than 10,000 road miles, Project iLASER has engaged members of the public, from elementary school age to senior citizens, living in U.S. communities along the 2000 mile U.S.-Mexico international border. The project has provided participants with opportunities to enjoy a host of STEM-based, hands-on activities that include solar power production and storage, exploring nanomaterials and making environmental and atmospheric measurements. The endeavor has reached more than 1,000 participants and has facilitated hands-on learning opportunities that convey a message of excitement for and confidence in the potential of science and technology to address grand challenges in sustainability and human development.  Primary venues for executing the project include Boys & Girls Clubs, elementary and middle schools and community science centers. Partner institutions are provided with the materials, supplies and training to incorporate the activities into their own programs. Many of the approximately two dozen sites along the border touched by Project iLASER are in impoverished and underserved communities. It is anticipated that generating enthusiasm for science and technology in these communities will ultimately serve to build capacity by inspiring youth to pursue STEM education and STEM careers, with the potential outcome of transforming lives from poverty to prosperity.