Sanford Underground Lab in Lead is one step closer to a STEM institute on their campus

LEAD, S.D. — Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) has been exploring adding a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math institute to their list of work.

The institute is in the early planning stages. A study on other STEM-type organizations has been conducted. That report is set to be finished by the end of the year. In 2020, the objective is to start the strategic planning process. That includes defining the types of sciences that will be utilized in the facility, how the place is to be operated and even deciding on the building and its location.

This process all began just over a year ago.

“As the lab has seen more international involvement,” says Executive Director Mike Headley. “We’ve gotten recommendations from a number of our major partners to get developing on an institute to advance the science.”

Advancing their current work in the sciences but also their education outreach, as well. The lab has been able to create curriculum from their research. Headley says 50,000 children have been impacted by their K-12 education outreach program.

“Everyone that we’ve talked to that has a successful institute has worked really hard to make education and outreach,” says Headley. “Not only for K-12 but for the general public, in general, a really big part of what they’re doing is about getting the word out about the work. And trying to tie, or have a strong tie, between the scientists who are doing the work and the general public.”

In addition to reports on the STEM institute study, the board of directors for the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, were also presented with designs for a new Ethnobotanical Garden that will be located on the west side of the Sanford lab property.

“It’s really going to provide us a venue to host people and hold those ceremonies as we go forward,” says Headley. “And it will, I think, really demonstrate our commitment of treating the Black Hills with respect and since the Black Hills are sacred to the Native Americans of this region.”

It will serve as a multipurpose area for events and teaching classes, but will also serve as a place for tribal ceremonies.

The idea came from the Cultural Advisory Committee for the lab.

Headley hopes that the project can begin next summer and be finished by the fall.

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