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Inspiring future scientists

Students benefit from ORNL’s surplus equipment donations worth $1.7 million

 

Local schools have received fume hoods, water baths, centrifuges and tilt tables, as well as ultrasonic cleaners, balances and a variety of expensive glassware.Local schools have received fume hoods, water baths, centrifuges and tilt tables, as well as ultrasonic cleaners, balances and a variety of expensive glassware. (hi-res image)

Old or unused laboratory equipment that has outlived its usefulness at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other Department of Energy sites doesn't have to sit idle or wind up in the scrap heap. In 2012, ORNL donated $1.7 million worth of surplus property to non-profits—including local schools, where it is now helping to inspire future scientists.

DOE works with the state of Tennessee to enable the surplus government property to go to school science labs and nonprofit agencies that can make effective use of the equipment.

Local schools have received fume hoods, water baths, centrifuges and tilt tables, as well as ultrasonic cleaners, balances and a variety of expensive glassware. The donated tools, outdated at any national lab, are now treasures for high school students, allowing them to conduct STEM research with high quality materials at a reasonable cost.

Robert Gant, a recently retired teacher from Hamblen County, credits the donations received from ORNL for his students' great showing at a recent major science competition.

One of his research teams placed first in the category of environmental management at the INTEL-International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz. The students received full scholarship offers from West Virginia University, $3,000, and will have asteroids named after them.

“The judges asked how their school acquired the use of such research equipment as a Bio-Guard hood, autoclave and growth chambers. My student's response gave full credit to your program -- which made all of their work possible," Gant said. “Inventiveness and research are not restricted by age, but students need to have things in front of them that they can manipulate. Just having assets creates its own excitement for them.”

Non-profits are required to sign-up through their State Agency For Surplus Property. To find the appropriate state agency, search the U.S. General Services Administration website (www.gsa.gov). Non-profits in Tennessee can register through the State of Tennessee Property Utilization group in Nashville. Once qualified as a federal screener they are entered on a notification list of eligible screeners maintained by our group.

"ORNL Excessing and Property Sales hosts four to six screening days approximately every six weeks; and have an average of 30 groups coming to claim items," ORNL disposal manager Marcia Whitson said.

Items must go through the excessing process to ensure that all site procedures are followed for items to be released to the public. All donations to schools and other non-profits require documentation approved by the Government Services Administration. ORNL Excessing and Property Sales personnel have been authorized by DOE to process the necessary documentation.

"The state will charge a small fee for processing the donation, so recipients should ask about the fee when signing up," Whitson said.

Lonnie Love, an ORNL researcher and avid mentor, said, "If I know that schools have priority and don't have to buy the equipment, it gives me extra motivation to salvage equipment rather than let it collect dust on my shelves in hope that one day I'll use it."

The Property Management group has a list of all schools and other non-profits who are currently qualified as screeners. For more information, contact Whitson at 865.241.5120 or email her at whitsonmd@ornl.gov.

 -  Bill Cabage,  865.574.4399,  July 15, 2013
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