Educators and a researcher with the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) at SURF speak with conference participants in Denver during the 2024 National Science Teaching Association Conference.  Poeple laughing and smiling while taking with each other at the SURF Booth at the conference.

SURF inspires learning at 2024 National Science Education Conference

Educators and a research scientist from SURF took part in the National Science Teaching Association Conference in Denver this spring.

Educators from the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) were joined by a SURF research scientist at the National Science Teaching Association Conference in Denver this spring.

The team attended the event to learn about the latest research and approaches to engage students in STEM learning, network with science teachers and leaders from across the nation, and share information on the cutting-edge research taking place at SURF.

The SURF education and outreach team has an impressive footprint at the state level. Each year they provide engaging learning opportunities for approximately 20,000 K-12 students and their teachers.

A participant at the 2024 NSTA conference views SURF's underground via in VR goggles.

“Because this conference had almost 5,000 attendees and more than 200 vendors from across the nation, we gained opportunities to make connections we would not have been able to otherwise,” says Julie Dahl a science education specialist at SURF. She notes that conference attendees were very interested in the professional development courses SURF is offering to science teachers across the country this summer.

“I think we reached a lot of people who were looking for opportunities to build on their own skillset and talents in the classroom,” Dahl says. “This year we had a small booth to get our foot in the door, and we still made contacts with hundreds of educators and vendors each day.”

The virtual reality headset that allowed conference goers to experience underground spaces at SURF was a huge draw.

“There were a lot of people who did not know about SURF and when they put on the headset and then learned more about our summer professional development programs for teachers you could see them light up,” says Doug Tiedt, a research scientist at SURF.

Tiedt and Dahl say the education team also met a number of potential future collaborators from those who teach with big data sets, to virtual and augmented reality production, and growing education companies.

SURF is America’s Underground Lab, and future researchers, technicians, engineers, and administrators will come to SURF from across the country and around the world.  SURF’s support for a robust STEM education for all students ensures the long-term workforce needs are met in the coming decades.

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