Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

New Mexico Governor's STEM Challenge

Recognizing achievement and developing potential in NM's diverse student population by exploring how STEM careers can address local, state, and global challenges


  • Statewide STEM Showcase Coordinator
  • Anjeli Doty
  • Community Partnerships Office
  • (505) 665-3922
  • Email
"Applying science, engineering, and technology to making the world safer is something we do every day, so this is a challenge that really resonates with us" - Laboratory Director Thom Mason
Theme for 2019-20 NM Governor's STEM Challenge
Los Alamos National Laboratory works to find solutions to challenging national problems in the following topic areas (click for larger image).

"How would you use technology to make the world a safer place?"

Scientific research and technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory is dedicated to protecting the security of our country. In the 2019-20 New Mexico Governor's STEM Challenge, the Laboratory invites local students to create technological solutions that meet the goal of Keeping the World Safer Using Technology. 

I want to...

See an overview of the Challenge
  • The NM Department of Workforce Solutions, the NM Public Education Department, and Los Alamos National Laboratory invite students in NM high school STEM classes statewide to imagine, design, and develop a project model to address the Laboratory's Challenge question
  • Schools accepting the Challenge will utilize the Laboratory's question as a co-curricular learning tool and case study in their STEM class curricula; though all STEM classrooms may participate, schools will choose a team of up to 10 students and teacher mentors to submit a proposed solution and present at the Statewide STEM Showcase on Dec 7 in Los Lunas
  • Participating NM industry employers judge teams based on quality and degree to which answers reflect skills required for careers with NM STEM businesses, and award winning teams $5,000 ($500/student)
  • Participating students team members receive varsity award letters in STEM recognized by the New Mexico Activities Association
Discover the big-picture mission and goals

At the heart of the STEM Challenge is a mission to:

  1. Recognize achievement and develop potential in the diverse students of New Mexico
  2. Encourage participation from underrepresented populations in STEM including minorities and girls
  3. Help teachers incorporate and utilize the Next Generation Science Standards in classrooms
Understand who can participate
  • All students grades 9-12 from NM high schools including public, charter, and private; home educators may participate by joining a public school team
  • Though all students in STEM high school classrooms may participate, schools will select one team of up to 10 students and 2 teacher mentors to represent the school and submit a proposed solution plan in the form of an executive summary, written plan (10 pg. max), and slide deck 
Get info on submission requirements

To participate in the STEM Challenge, each team will develop 1) a prototype/rough model of their solution, and 2) a proposal packet that outlines their prototype and presents a compelling plan for its usage.

1) the prototype:

  • Could be a computational model, computer simulation, or physical prototype
  • Smaller = usually better (needs to be transportable to the Statewide Showcase)
  • Can be made from reused and repurposed items
  • Can be made in a fab-lab or makerspace, but not a requirement
  • Does not need to be functional but ideally will be
  • If not functional, students need to explain how it could work

2) the proposal packet:

  • Due by November 22, 11:59pm
  • Submit online to Statewide Showcase coordinator Anjeli Doty (adoty@lanl.gov)
  • Needs to include:
    1. A one-page executive summary
    2. A written plan outlining the prototype design, development process, and usage plan; this document should identify the problem, convey the collaborative problem-solving process, demonstrate strengths and weaknesses, modifications, test results, and effectiveness
    3. A slide deck/pitch stack with photos, diagrams, etc.
Understand how the judging process works

Once the proposal packet is submitted, judges from partnered employer sponsors will review the projects and assign 50% of the score.

The judging system/rubric for the will be made available so that participants understand how teams will be evaluated and what it takes to be competitive.

The second 50% of the score will be evaluated through in-person demonstrations and team interviews at the Statewide Showcase on December 7 at Los Lunas High School, NM.

Find teacher resources

We want to help you! Here are some resources:

  • Digital Archive from the Sep. 14-15 Professional Learning Workshop in Albuquerque
  • Link to the NM STEM Ready! Science Standards
  • Link to the NM STEM Mentor Network to request an undergraduate mentor from institutions across the state (coordinated through New Mexico State University)
  • A $500 stipend for teacher mentors and reimbursement for supplies/materials (up to $500) are provided through the NM Public Education Department; once students submit their proposal packets on Nov. 22, teachers may submit reimbursement forms to receive such funds. 
  • Weekly virtual support through the PED and LANL
Connect on social media

Visit our Facebook pageand our Twitter for the latest updates on the STEM Challenge!

Use the hashtag #NMGovSTEMChallenge to ask questions, share photos of your team, or explore news!

Learn about the sponsoring companies

The STEM Challenge is supported by numerous generous companies who each committed $5000 to sponsor a winning team. These companies include:

Air Force Research Labs is the Air Force’s only organization whose entire mission is dedicated to leading the discovery, development, and integration of warfighting technologies for air, space and cyberspace. 

AFRL is comprised of nine national directorates, and AFRL-New Mexico (NM) is the proud home to two of those directorates: Directed Energy and Space Vehicles. This research includes:
  • High power electromagnetics; Laser systems; Electro-optics
  • Space component technology; Satellite space experiments
In addition to laboratory work, AFRL is dedicated to advancing technology through partnerships with the private sector, academia and entrepreneurs through our various economic development initiatives. 

To learn more, visit: https://www.afrlnewmexico.com/ 

Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company whose research and development extends into the commercial, defense, space, environment, and technology arenas.

In NM, Boeing supports the U.S. Air Force scientists and engineers who experiment with lasers and an 11.4-foot telescope at the Starfire Optical Range to better monitor human-made objects in orbit. As satellites get smaller and more and more objects occupy space (including debris), imaging and identifying space objects is crucial.

The Albuquerque Boeing site houses researchers who are continually developing ways to enhance modern civilization, space navigation, and military technologies to protect freedom. These include:

  • Satellite and defense concepts
  • Lasers, sensors, and cameras for space transportation
  • Defense against unmanned airborne systems

To learn more, visit: https://www.boeing.com/innovation/

Chevron is a multinational energy corporation headquartered in the United States. As the second largest of their kind worldwide, Chevron produces oil, natural gas, and energy-related products.

Chevron is also one of the largest producers of oil and gas in the Permian Basin, which extends into Southeastern NM. In order to improve development in the Permian while also supporting its communities and the environment, Chevron advances innovative technology for safer and more efficient drilling, infrastructure, and production. These include:

  • Predictive analysis for exploration strategy, resource characterization, and well construction
  • Advanced mapping of rock layers to better understand where resources are located
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimize well spacing and production preparations
  • Advanced modeling and analysis for drill assembly that lengthens bit life and effectiveness

To learn more, visit: https://www.chevron.com/projects/permian

Descartes Labs is a technology company developing a data-refinery on a cloud-based supercomputer to apply machine-learning techniques to massive data sets. They “teach” computers how to analyze massive amounts of data, which creates an infrastructure to model and predict resources and connected factors.

Descartes Labs has offices in Santa Fe and Los Alamos, NM, and their work includes:

  • Providing business tools to apply data insights across a range of industries
  • Environmental modeling and comprehension
  • Impact science work around natural disasters, disease spread, and food security

Descartes Labs also uses their technology abilities to process satellite imagery from major NASA and ESA satellite constellations for real-time Earth monitoring.
To learn more, visit: https://www.descarteslabs.com

Deloitte is a network company comprised of over 245,000 professionals in independent firms worldwide, providing service-based technology solutions for businesses. Deloitte hosts an office in Santa Fe, NM, and supports numerous sectors from financial consulting and tax services to cognitive technology and artificial intelligence. The company’s research also includes:

  • Audit, assurance, consulting, and risk advisory and management
  • Big data, analytics, visualization, machine learning, and healthcare
  • Infrastructure, cybersecurity, electric power, and automotive
  • Customer experience, social modeling, and organizational dynamics

To learn more, visit: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en.html

El Paso Electric is a utility company providing electric generation, transmission, and distribution across a 10,000 square mile area of the Rio Grande Valley in NM. El Paso Electric generates energy from sources such as nuclear fuel, natural gas, and solar and wind turbines. Their development and projects include:

  • Cleaner power, including solar and natural gas
  • Preventative and responsive safety systems
  • Power grid infrastructure and stability
  • Outage Center: logistics, coordination, tracking systems

El Paso Electric was the first utility company in NM and Texas to stop using coal-based power. They continually invest in greener energy, such as renewable systems installed in homes and electric vehicles. To learn more, visit: https://www.epelectric.com/

Facebook is globally known as a social networking platform, but the company’s mission is to develop tools that support people in building communities and staying connected. From technology that checks user safety during natural disasters to systems that optimize blood donation logistics, Facebook’s research goes beyond social media and business development/advertisement tools, to include technology such as:  

  • Facebook Connectivity Lab: aircraft, satellites, and wireless communication systems
  • Artificial intelligence: image recognition, language processing, speech recognition, and associated infrastructure

In NM, Facebook recently opened a new data center in Los Lunas that runs off 100% renewable energy. For more information, visit: https://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/

Freeport-McMoRan is a leading international mining company headquartered in Arizona. They operate long-lasting assets with reserves of copper, gold, and other metals. Recent technology development includes:

  • Cloud-based software based on real-time data to reduce machine downtime and effectively track asset utilization and yields
  • Advanced data analytics and visualization for decision-support software and intelligent operations
  • Drone technology to scout and map areas, provide aerial safety, and document blast sequencing

In Southwestern NM, Freeport-McMoRan operates the Chino and Tyrone copper mines near Silver City. For more information, visit: https://fcx.com/

Intel is a multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in California. Known widely for their processor production, Intel’s innovation and development also extends into cloud capabilities, memory and programmable solutions, and 5G connectivity. Intel established a campus in Rio Rancho in 1980, NM, where they develop:

  • Microprocessor technology for data centers and smart and connected devices worldwide
  • Intel Silicon Photonics: high-speed optical connectivity using fiber optics for data communications

Intel is the leading employer in Rio Rancho and invests into policy, diversity inclusion, and education initiatives both in direct local communities and worldwide.
For more information, visit: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/homepage.html

Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, NM. A collective of 400+ employees create immersive and interactive experiences using a variety of media including:

  • Architecture, painting, and sculpture
  • Video production and photography
  • Cross-reality and augmented experiences (like VR)
  • Audio engineering and music
  • Novel and previously unreleased digital products

In addition to creatives, Meow Wolf bridges art and technology by also employing engineers, architects, electrical technicians, and software experts to create and manage their interactive experiences. For more information, visit: https://meowwolf.com/about

N3B is an environmental remediation organization that manages the 10-year Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract for the U.S. DOE. Comprised of multiple companies, N3B performs cleanup operations through LANL’s Environmental Management Office. Their expertise includes:

  • Complex nuclear facility management
  • Resource management and waste disposal
  • Water and wastewater engineering and remediation
  • Nuclear safety and radiological control
  • Sampling technology for air, soil, and water

For more information, visit: https://n3b-la.com/

Pattern Energy is a leading US-based independent renewable energy company supporting innovation in multiple industries including solar, wind, storage, transmission, and advanced energy technologies. Pattern Energy manages a diverse portfolio of operations, including:

  • Environmental management: land reclamation, regulatory and public policy, stewardship
  • Safety practices and routine training, equipment optimization and reliability
  • Advanced data analytics and predictive software, proprietary resource and financial modeling

Pattern Energy has a prominent presence in NM, including their recent investment in expansive wind energy capacities in the East-Central part of the state.
For more information, visit: https://patternenergy.com/learn/our-company

PNM is NM’s largest energy provider, serving over 525,000 residential and business customers. In support of their renewable energy mission, PNM has built solar centers, installed private solar energy systems for customers, and implemented environmental upgrades to reduce emissions and preserve bird habitats. PNM operations also include:

  • Installing over one million solar panels in NM
  • Combining geothermal, wind, and solar energy to produce clean power and reduce emissions
  • Energy efficiency programs to reduce power and water consumption

For more information, visit: https://www.pnm.com/web/pnm.com/about-

Presbyterian is a locally owned and operated nonprofit health care system known for their experience in integrating healthcare financing and delivery. Their expertise includes:

  • Cancer care and research
  • Women’s health
  • Heart and vascular care
  • Neuroscience
  • Neonatal and pediatric intensive care

As part of their outreach mission, Presbyterian conducts community health needs assessments to identify the priority healthcare issues facing NM communities, and collaborates with local health councils and forums to understand the drivers behind local health issues and develop solutions.
To learn more, visit: https://www.phs.org/about-us/Pages/default.

Sandia National Laboratories is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory that supports numerous federal, state, and local government agencies, companies, and organizations. Maintaining the safety, security, and efficiency of the U.S. nuclear stockpile is Sandia’s primary directive, but their role also encompasses research and development in:

  • High-performance computing and cybersecurity
  • Satellites, engineering and materials for U.S. space exploration
  • Ensuring safe and reliable power source capabilities and technologies
  • Neutron generation lifecycle, qualification, production, surveillance, dismantlement, and disposal
  • Climate security research, discovering and harnessing domestic energy sources

Sandia is a major proponent of STEM education and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. To learn more, visit: https://www.sandia.gov/about/index.html

Triad manages Los Alamos National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory. As the senior laboratory in the DOE system, LANL performs research and develops technology for defense and global stability, including:

  • Nuclear defense and stockpile stewardship
  • Cybersecurity and quantum computing
  • Environmental management and remediation,
  • Disease modeling, cancer treatments, HIV vaccines, and diagnostic tools
  • Earth system modeling and natural disaster protection; energy security solutions

For more information, visit: https://www.lanl.gov/

Urenco is a nuclear power company with plants worldwide. Their U.S. location in Southeastern NM plays a crucial role in the nuclear fuel supply chain to support sustainably generated electricity. Urenco’s mission-supporting research and expertise includes:
  • Nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment
  • Waste management through all cycles
  • Decommissioning and repurposing of facilities; rationalization of service infrastructure
  • Environmental responsibility and innovate solutions to maximize waste hierarchy
  • Uranic materials management: facility design, operating solutions, materials treatment

Urenco also collaborates with local communities and regional initiatives to support education, health, and the environment through sponsorships, volunteering, workshops, and internship programs. To learn more, visit: https://urenco.com/global-operations/uusa

Virgin Galactic is a company in the Virgin Group developing commercial spacecraft. In Southern NM, Virgin Galactic built Spaceport America, a high-tech facility and headquarters for human spaceflight, flight operations, and astronaut training. Their research and development include:

  • Aerospace, systems integration, spacecraft assembly
  • Telemetry, communications, engineering software
  • Rocket mechanics, power sources, safety operations
  • Flight planning, astronaut training, flight crew operations
  • Non-destructive testing methods, application, and analysis

Virgin Galactic also creates opportunities for the research community to explore inaccessible regions.

Explore the rewards and benefits
  • Winning teams receive $5,000 ($500/student) education award sponsored by NM STEM employers, and present at Statewide STEM Showcase before all companies, alliance participants, and other school teams
  • All participating team students eligible to receive varsity letter recognized by the New Mexico Activities Association for college admissions
  • Students will use and learn: teamwork, problem-solving, innovation, breakthrough technologies, STEM development, and presentation skills

Q: Can my school have more than one team?

A: Each New Mexico high school is eligible to register one (1) team for the STEM Challenge.

Q: How many students can participate on a team?

 A: All STEM students may participate, but teachers will choose 10 students from their classes that show interest and ability over the semester to comprise the official team, submit the final project proposal, and present at the Statewide STEM Showcase for a chance receive award funds.

Q: Does the STEM Challenge follow NMAA eligibility rules?

A: As an official activity, students must meet NMAA standards for participation.

Q: Do schools need to provide budget statements?

A: There will be no budget statement requirement for the 2019 year. The STEM Challenge rules dictate a monetary cap of <$500 spent on prototypes, and the judging panel is aware of all spending guidelines and rules.

Q: What is the maximum length of the project proposal's written portion?

A: The written piece should be 10 pages maximum, although citations and acknowledgements may be included on an additional page(s).

Q: How does the mentorship part work?

A: Teams register through the New Mexico STEM Mentor website under the "Request a STEM Mentor" option. If you know someone who would like to volunteer to be a mentor, the site also features a "Become a STEM Mentor" option.

Q: Is the teacher training workshop mandatory?

A: Attending the teacher workshop is not required although we highly encourage participation, even if only one of two teacher mentors on a team can attend. Travel will be reimbursed for those commuting 60+ miles. Schedule conflicts understandably arise, and we will do everything to accommodate.

Q: When and where is the teacher training workshop?

A: It is currently scheduled for September 14-15 at the Sheraton Uptown Hotel in Albuquerque.

Q: Do the students on our team need to be all the same grade?

A: No, we encourage teachers to build teams with diverse ages and abilities. 

Q: When will mentor teachers receive the stipends?

A: Teachers will receive $500 stipends after their teams' project proposal submission on Nov. 22.

Q: What are good resources for brainstorming project ideas?

A: The STEM Challenge Question Resources/Research Backgrounder is a great starting point to explore research and technological solutions making the world safer. We will also distribute a forthcoming document outlining the research and work of our industry employer partners, to inspire students and spur creativity in developing their own projects.


Sponsorship for the NM Governor's STEM Challenge is generously provided by:

AFRL logo.     Boeing logo.     Decartes Labs logo

Chevron logo     Deloitte Logo     El Paso Electric logo

Facebook logo Intel logo    Meow Wolf logo

           Freeport McMoRan logo

N3B logoPattern Energy LogoSandia Labs logo

   Virgin Galactic logo     RS21 logo


 URENCO logo Presbyterian logo