Statewide Event for K-12 Students Receives STEM Award

Achievement date: 

An event hosted by a member institution of the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), received an award from Big Brothers Big Sisters for an event attended by 1,500 K-12 students from around New Mexico. 


The “Best Real World Application of STEM” award recognized a program that used hands-on activities to introduce students to LED science through music and artwork. The event drew many young women and minorities—groups under-represented in the sciences—in an effort to build their interest in pursuing the STEM fields.


The ERC team at the University of New Mexico (UNM) received the award at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Discovery Festival in Albuquerque, NM. The on-campus event included a demonstration of Visible Light Communication (VLC) and light LEDs.

The event demonstrated VLC to send a song via laser beam to a solar cell connected to a speaker. Diffraction glasses were distributed so students could see what colors mix together to make white light.

Impressing K-12 students with the science of LEDs can help build a pipeline of students who may decide to enter college with a major in a STEM Field. Growing the future home-grown workforce in the STEM fields is a widely held goal of the U.S. education system and industry, and a core mission of the NSF-funded ERCs.

Many policymakers and industry members have also invested in developing more STEM students in particular among under-represented groups such as the young women and minorities that attended the UNM program.