Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy

Award Winners

Rebecca Erikson
Engineer, National Security Directorate

Rebecca Erikson
A Role Model Who Breaks the Mold

A mid-career engineer, Rebecca Erikson breaks the mold for what students, particularly girls, typically see as career paths for themselves—physicist, inventor, and tech expert. She reaches out to hundreds of teachers and students on her own time to share the fruits of her labor—PNNL’s Smartphone Microscope. It’s a sleek and inexpensive way to turn a smartphone into a high-powered, high-quality microscope. Sharing it locally has led to excitement as far away as Washington, D.C. and around the world.

The Department of Energy Office of Economic Impact and Diversity got so excited about Rebecca’s invention that they generated educational activities highlighting the Smartphone Microscope for all to use. When invited to serve as a STEM role model and panelist to help launch these educational activities at a national level, Rebecca made sure to be present in Washington, D.C., and Florida, to support student education.

At countless community events aimed at increasing awareness about microscopy and the potential for women in science and engineering, Rebecca is always equipped with interactive components to give students hands-on experiences. Just a few of these include: a giant fishbowl filled with water to demonstrate how lenses and optics work; a variety of samples to examine using the smartphone microscope; and her own 3D printer to demonstrate how the microscopes are made in real-time.

Rebecca goes out of her way to make sure that schools are adequately equipped with smartphone microscopes. She has donated over 3,000 of the devices for this purpose. Hundreds were printed on her own personal printer, while she personally purchased over 1,500 additional microscopes strictly for donating to schools and STEM organizations. In total she has reached out to more than 1,100 local community members since 2015, plus 200,000 at MakerFaire in San Francisco.

Rebecca has established herself as a key mentor for PNNL interns as well. She has been described by a former student as “an exceptional mentor with a remarkable passion for science and learning.” She leverages her position as an early-career engineer to advise students from a perspective that many cannot.

Rebecca has a giving spirit and willingness to share her passion with audiences of all ages. Her creativity and foresight in seeing the potential for PNNL’s Smartphone Microscope have been a game-changing educational tool for thousands of educators and students.

David McKinnon
Research Scientist, National Security Directorate

David McKinnon
Teaching Computing to Everyone, Not Just the Fortunate

One of the most passionate and committed senior research scientists involved with STEM education at PNNL, David McKinnon strives to make computer science an opportunity for everyone, not just for the fortunate few. In 2016 alone, he volunteered hundreds of hours educating both teachers and students in robotics and cyber security.

David has expanded PNNL’s STEM outreach footprint, having recruited (and mentored) many more PNNL staff to help. He is developing a “Science Night Lending Library,” of hands-on science night activities so that PNNL staff can quickly learn how to demonstrate the activity for elementary and middle school students.

David was the first STEM professional to visit schools in Boardman and Umatilla, OR, for the Hour of Code. By visiting these small, rural schools, David hopes to break the cycle of poverty for a few students. He trained the Pasco School District FIRST LEGO League (FLL) coaches at two professional development sessions. At Hanford High School he participated in an advisory capacity for the cyber security class and assisted in the development of a new robotics course.

David is critical to the success of the Pink Elephant Unicorn (PEU) Capture the Flag Competition (partially PNNL-sponsored). David collaborates with cyber researchers and engineers to design and build the jeopardy-style competition designed to educate, regardless of skill or experience.

He worked with student interns to develop “CyPhy Town,” a cyber-physical demonstration platform used as a K-12 educational tool. He also developed and led “Arduinos Boot Camp: Teacher-Researcher Professional Learning,” assembling a diverse team of experts to increase computing literacy in local schools.

David has been the Tri-Cities FLL tournament director for 11 years. FLL identifies a scientific and real-world challenge for teams to research. The robotics part of the competition involves designing and programming robots to complete tasks. The students work out solutions and then meet for regional tournaments to share their knowledge, compare ideas, and display their robots.

He has a true talent for making science come to life, and his enthusiasm is passed on to his students. David focuses on youth from ages 9-14, realizing that this is an age where we can make the most impact to students’ interests in science through their unbiased and eager mindsets.

David’s advice, teaching, and mentoring have had—and continue to have—a tremendous impact on local individuals and education, which may be why he is the first person to be recognized with a Fitzner-Eberhardt Award twice in his career.

Ben Stuermer
Computing & Analytics, National Security Directorate

Benjamin Stuermer
Early Career Leader and Champion of Diversity

Benjamin Stuermer established himself as a leader, mentor, role model, and champion of diversity unusually early in his career. Like going from zero to 60 miles per hour, Benjamin champions computer science education, then turns around to encourage and empower others to do the same—especially role models from groups underrepresented in STEM.

Soon after joining PNNL in 2015, Ben jumped on board with STEM volunteering. Since then he has amassed a long list of accomplishments, including leading Raspberry Pi sessions for STEM Con. He supported Hour of Code in local classrooms, and mentored underrepresented students, their teachers, and PNNL staff members as part of MESA's* Arduino prosthetic arm challenge.

One of Benjamin’s standout contributions occurred when Delta High School's Computer Science (CS) instructor suddenly resigned, leaving the school without a teacher just one week before the start of classes. Benjamin contributed by planning and recruiting many experienced PNNL volunteers, in addition to volunteering several days to assist both the students and the inexperienced substitute CS teacher in the classroom.

In 2015 and 2016, Benjamin participated in the Congressional Apps Challenge, consisting of introductory workshops followed by one-on-one classroom assistance. Benjamin's goal was to teach novice programmers the basics of mobile application development using the App Inventor software. At the end of the 2016 App Challenge cycle, Benjamin spent a day volunteering as a judge, providing feedback, and mentoring students who completed the challenge.

Throughout 2016, he visited Tri-Cities schools (Christ the King, Marcus Whitman, Tri-Tech, and the Mid-Columbia Partnership) to teach the Hour of Code events. During HOC, students across the globe take a high-paced "crash" course in hands-on programming fundamentals.

This early-career staff member is impacting our local STEM education efforts already – and hopefully will do so for years to come!

61 members have received this award, which includes a $1,500 prize. Up to three awards are given each year. In addition, two special awards have been presented.

In 1996, the Laboratory provided a special 'Lifetime Achievement Award' to recognize the career contributions (particularly in the area of public understanding) to staff scientist Lee Rogers.

In 2000, Georganne O'Connor, a Communications Specialist and Editor, was recognized for her outstanding support to Pacific Northwest's Science and Engineering Education Programs (for outstanding educational materials she prepared for students and teachers).

To date the award recipients are:

199419951996
Roy Bunnell
Crystal Driver
Bill Rickard
Mike Schweiger
Bert Cushing
Aaron Diaz
Janelle Downs
Al Fuciarelli
Eric Nyberg
Jim Young
Lee Rogers
(Life Time Achievement)
199719981999
Gordon Anderson
Susan Blanton
Allison Campbell
Bill Mavros
Roy Gephart
Steve Reidel
Dennis Dauble
Glen Dunham
Kim Fowler
200020012002
Don Baer
Gariann Gelston
Tim Hubler
Georganne O'Connor
(Special Recognition)
Nancy Foster-Mills
Ted Poston
Kevin Simmons
Scott Abernethy
SK Sundaram
David Whiteman
200320042005
Duane Horton
Signe Wurstner
Wayne Martin
Bob Schenter
Sam Bryan
Rik Littlefield
200620072008
Shannon Goodwin
Eric Hoppe
George Last
James A. Campbell
Shuttha Shutthanandan
Jim Amonette
Darby Stapp
200920102011
Novella Bridges
Bill Pike
Theva Thevuthasan Darrell Fisher
David McKinnon
2012 2013 2014
Eric Bell
Frannie Skomurski
Rick Cameron
Amoret Bunn
Cristina Marinovici
Laura Turo
Duane Balvage
Ryan LaMothe
Laura Riihimaki
2015 2016
Alison Coleto
Kurt Silvers
Christian Johnson
Elizabeth Stephens

What's New

Contacts