STEM Volunteers Offer Underserved Students a Way Out Through Science

By Alan J. McCombs

Science fairs changed Russ’s life.

Growing up in Leesville, Louisiana, a place Russ describes as four hours from anything interesting in the state, science competitions opened many doors for him.

“I wasn’t athletic, but I was able to participate in the local science fair,” says Russ. “That changed the entire trajectory of my life and inspired me to go into science and later to college for engineering.”

Russ is a Northrop Grumman program manager supporting the Social Security Administration in Maryland. He's been volunteering for nearly a decade with the Science Olympiad, a nonprofit science competition that helps children recognize the fun of science. He was also recognized by Northrop Grumman for his work supporting thousands of children.

Recognition and Volunteering in the name of STEM Education

volunteerism in STEM education​​​​​ Russ received Northrop Grumman’s Excellence in Volunteerism Award for his work in STEM education.

Russ received Northrop Grumman’s Excellence in Volunteerism Award for his work with the Maryland Science Olympiad (MSO) and Science Olympiad. The award comes with a $5,000 grant for the recipient’s nonprofit.

The grant will support programming for the Maryland Science Olympiad (MSO), which has children competing in two- or three- person teams in a variety of academic challenges aimed at exposing them to science, technology, engineering and math. The money will allow MSO to provide resources so coaches can better mentor children while also supporting MSO expansion across Maryland.

Russ’s involvement with the Science Olympiad dates back to 2010 while living in Ohio and his son got involved in the competition. Russ quickly moved from parent and supporter, to coach, to event supervisor, to the National Physics Committee and a variety of other positions supporting Science Olympiad locally and nationally. When he moved to Maryland in 2015, he continued supporting Science Olympiad in multiple states and, in 2017, became both the executive director and state director for the MSO.

Science is an opportunity for underserved students

As a leader in the Maryland program, Russ launched an effort to better link urban school initiatives for the communities in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. that included supporting multiple clinics provided for coaches and students in the inner city. Russ held meetings between the three cities to share ideas on how to recruit teams, how to resolve critical urban issues such as transportation and food insecurity, and how to challenge students in an encouraging and safe environment.

science Olympiad team​​​​​ Science Olympiad offers an opportunity for underserved students to experience STEM activities hands on.

“Science is the reason that I was able to achieve many of my goals in life,” says Russ.

“Kids don’t know that science is a way out. They have seen and heard all the stories about the guy who’s freakishly good at sports. I want to help youngsters who come from areas where maybe science is not a big deal, and I want to help them achieve their goals."

Northrop Grumman supports employees in many volunteer pursuits, especially in STEM related activities. Search jobs that may be of interest to you in engineering, chemistry, data analytics, physics, cyber and more.