SANTA FE — During a recent week-long summer camp hosted by STEM Santa Fe, students learned about algae cultivation, engineering, chemistry and robotics, along with the importance of teamwork, problem-solving skills and having fun while learning.
“This camp is my favorite,” said Vivian, who just entered the sixth grade. She and her sister Hadley, a seventh grader, have been involved with STEM Santa Fe for two years.
“It feels very fun because you get to do a different thing every day,” Vivian added. “You get hands-on activities, which is something different than you get in school.”
Lina Germann, Ph.D., MBA, founded STEM Santa Fe in 2017 to encourage middle and junior high school girls to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields via educational and fun hands-on activities. She soon realized she could help close the opportunity gap for other under-represented groups in STEM by advocating for, developing and providing STEM programming, mentoring and resources for all youth.
“During our programs, we foster interactions with like-minded peers and STEM professionals to provide a safe and supportive atmosphere for all,” said Germann, who stepped down as head of the nonprofit in September 2023.
“At its core, our STEM programming is about learning how to learn,” she said. “We cannot teach our students to solve problems that do not exist yet, but we can teach them how to recognize and solve new problems by applying analytical and critical thinking skills.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) recently supported STEM Santa Fe with in-kind video production services, which included a video filmed, edited and finalized by BCBSNM at no cost.
Every year, BCBSNM offers in-kind video production services to one New Mexico nonprofit organization that works to improve the health and wellness of New Mexicans. Recipients can use their donated video to highlight their impact in the community and raise awareness for their work. STEM Santa Fe will use its in-kind video as a fundraising tool.
“At BCBSNM, community support occurs through various volunteer and financial commitments,” said Janice Torrez, president of BCBSNM. “We’re proud to provide this service to support the health, well-being and education of young students in the community.”
The video casts a spotlight on STEM Santa Fe’s engaging, challenging and fun educational programs available to young students in northern New Mexico, mainly focusing on an in-person STEM summer camp. However, STEM Santa Fe also offers workshops, conferences and in-school programs.
To find instructors, STEM Santa Fe taps into a pool of STEM professionals who volunteer to deliver project-based STEM learning experiences. Instructors and other volunteers come from institutions such as Los Alamos National Laboratory, Northern New Mexico College, New Mexico Tech and more.
In addition to building STEM-related skills, instructors said the program also helps participants to improve their problem-solving skills, value the importance of teamwork and foster friendships between like-minded peers.
“At these young ages, we also want to foster critical thinking and intuition skills,” said Joann Latorre, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at Doña Ana Community College and New Mexico State University who instructs during STEM Santa Fe programs. “We want to excite students to pursue STEM careers, but we also want them to remember these experiences.”