AFRL recognizes 2024 New Mexico Excellence in STEM at annual awards event

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  • By Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) - More than 100 people from across New Mexico gathered to celebrate those doing exceptional work in STEM education at the annual New Mexico Excellence in STEM Awards hosted by the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, Tech Engagement Office. The awards, known as the STEMYS, took place June 21, 2024, at Q Station.
Col. Jeremy Raley, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, delivered opening remarks, welcoming guests and explaining the importance of STEM education to the U.S. Department of the Air and Space Forces. Col. Clark Allred, acting director of AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, was also in attendance to help honor this year’s STEMY winners.
This year the Tech Engagement Office added a new honor to the awards, the AFRL Mentor of the Year Award. The award will be given annually to an AFRL employee who goes above and beyond to mentor students.
“We are fortunate to have an engaged workforce who want to share their passion and expertise with students of all ages,” said Gabe Mounce, director of the AFRL Tech Engagement Office, as he introduced the award. “There is so much of that work being done that we wanted to honor those who are stepping up to make a difference.”
The inaugural AFRL Mentor of the Year Award was given to Dr. Spencer Olson, of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. Dr. Olson was nominated for his work with the AFRL Scholars program, with which he has been active since 2013.
Other winners of the night also had ties to AFRL. K-8 Student of the Year honoree Andy Stoker from AIMS Academy helped lead his team to this year’s American Rocketry Challenge Finals. The team is part of the STARBASE New Mexico Advanced program hosted by the AFRL STEM Academy. High School Student of the Year Gianna Nilvo, a recent graduate of Belén High School, was also an AFRL Scholar.
The AFRL Tech Engagement Office created the STEMY awards in 2018 after recognizing a need for New Mexico statewide awards to honor STEM education and those who make a difference in varying STEM fields. Since then, AFRL has honored dozens of New Mexicans from every corner of the state.
Thanks to sponsors, some winners also received $1,500 scholarships. This year’s event sponsors were the City of Albuquerque, the Minority Business Development Agency, and the New Mexico Trade Alliance.
The 2024 STEMY Awards winners are:
Student K-8:
Anderson Stoker (AIMS)
Educator K-8:                 
Veronica Forester (Emerson Elementary)
Students 9-12:
Gianna Nilvo (Belén High School)
Hanah Hanes (ASK Academy)
Educator 9-12:              
Nevelyn Headrick (ASK Academy)
Inspired by Science
Lamberto Jr. Geolin (Tohatchi High School)
Megan Ivory (Sandia Labs, QCaMP)
AFRL Mentor:
Spencer Olson (Cold Atoms)
Higher-Ed program:
University of New Mexico STEM-H
Lifetime Achievement:
Karen Kinsman
About AFRL   
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development – as well as aerospace and operational medicine. For more information, visit