Energy Interns Program: Pathways to STEM Careers

Two high school students record environmental data collected in EBAYS program

The Lawrence Hall of Science received a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant (award #1849958) to create the Energy Interns program and investigate its impact on youth participants. The project engages a diverse population of youth residing in low-income, urban communities in the San Francisco Bay Area in a combination of technology-enabled STEM learning, skills development, training and research activities specifically designed to stimulate interest in clean energy and environmental science-related career pathways. The youth engage in interventions through a clean energy and environmental science-related curriculum. The project investigates the capacity of two career pathway models to stimulate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) interest and career awareness among underrepresented “opportunity youth” (i.e., those between the ages of 16 and 24 years old enrolled in non-traditional educational programs and/or not working). The project is producing a set of effective clean energy and environmental science-related instructional resources useful in helping to improve STEM literacy among youth residing in urban areas. 

More about the Energy Interns Project >

Part of the NSF’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, this project advances efforts to better understand and promote practices that increase students’ motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

The Energy Interns project engages youth enrolled in programs operated by community-based organizations in carefully designed sequences of hands-on activities that address important STEM subject matter related to clean energy and environmental science. Summer and after school components serve as the primary content assimilation mechanism. Approximately sixty new youth participate in project activities each year over the course of the project’s three-year implementation. These youths engage in hands-on, materials-centered activities designed to aid in the development of STEM understandings and skills that increase capacity and confidence necessary for effectively pursuing future academic and career-related endeavors. Research questions include: 1) What is the impact that a given pathway model has on affecting career interest, preparation, and trajectory? and 2) Can these models be successful in impacting how youth value the application of STEM?

The project takes an innovative approach to broaden participation in STEM by addressing STEM workforce inequities and engaging a population of students not in the traditional school setting in STEM learning. In this way, the findings of this research will provide information about how to re-engage students who are currently disconnected from STEM.

Energy Interns
In Action

Energy Interns present to the Alameda County Joint Powers Authority

Youth revealed that they have found alarming levels of lead in soil samples collected from public parks and neighborhoods in West and East Oakland, CA. The young people shared the fact that of the 150 samples they collected, processed, and analyzed, a very high percentage contain hazardous levels of lead. Read the full news story about the presentation.

Watch Our Recent Together Bay Area Presentation

Instructor Jim Neiss-Cortez presented about the Energy Interns project (starting at 9:00 in the video) along with other Bay Area career-development organizations on October 11, 2022 as part of the Together Tuesdays series.


For more information about this project or to get involved, please contact Principal Investigator Kevin Cuff.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1849958. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.