Sandia Labs News Releases

STEM in the Sun keeps learning cool amid record temperatures

Quinn Fetman, 8, left, and Edward Ortega, 7, make miniature lava lamps during a Sandia National Laboratories STEM in the Sun event at Griegos Elementary School on July 26, 2023. (Photo by Craig Fritz) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Volunteers from Sandia National Laboratories helped wrap up summer break with fun, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math activities at the fourth annual STEM in the Sun program. With the outdoor temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, this year’s event was moved indoors, creating a unique environment for some sun-based STEM learning.

Elementary and middle school-age students got to learn about the effects of ultraviolet light using UV beads and make lava lamps, catapults and marshmallow and dried pasta structures. They also learned about surface tension and got to program Ozobots, tiny robots designed to be an introduction to coding.

“My favorite was building with the noodles and marshmallows because my mom’s an engineer,” said Maevyn Haynes, a second grader who goes to Griegos Elementary School. “It’s fun to learn about science.”

Matthias White, 9, accomplishes his goal of building a marshmallow and spaghetti tower taller than himself during Sandia National Laboratories’ STEM in the Sun event. (Photo by Craig Fritz) Click on the thumbnail for a high-resolution image.

The award for the biggest marshmallow and dried pasta structure went to Matthias White, a fourth grader from Farmington.

“I’ve never made something this tall,” said White. “I made something like this before, but they didn’t have a lot of stuff, so I couldn’t make it this tall. I want to be a scientist, so yeah, I like learning about science.”

This summer, STEM in the Sun consisted of seven sessions throughout June and July in partnership with the City of Albuquerque’s summer recreation program. More than 40 volunteers from various organizations within Sandia took part.

“At the end of the day, kids don’t realize they’re learning STEM because they’re having so much fun,” said Roberta Rivera, a member of Sandia’s Community Involvement team.

The latest event at Griegos Elementary School on July 26 was the final event for the summer and was led by members of Sandia’s Hispanic Outreach for Leadership & Awareness Group.

“I have two little boys and I’ve always been interested in outreach, and this was a good opportunity,” said volunteer Carlos Perez, who works in materials science at Sandia. “Curiosity is always fun to see, especially when started from an early stage; maybe it will get them on the right track. We certainly need the next generation to get interested in that subject.”

STEM in the Sun was started in the summer of 2020 by Sandia’s Community Involvement team to engage kids in fun, hands-on STEM activities at various City of Albuquerque community centers during COVID-19. The program has been a continued success, even when it has to be held inside because the sun is just a little too hot.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.

Sandia news media contact: Kim Vallez Quintana,, 505-537-3294