Browsing articles from "July, 2013"

STEM & The City

Jul 8, 2013   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Today is the start of our third year of NASA Summer of Innovation programming. We were awarded a second year mini-grant to continue our “There’s An App for That!” STEM program. This year we will be working with several community partners and Chicago Public School summer programs to introduce programming and engineering to middle school and rising 9th graders.

Thirteen years ago NASA came to Chicago to inspire and ignite the imaginations of K-12 students in Chicago Public Schools. SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy) was a program that was literally out of this world. Chicago students had an opportunity to learn about space, aeronautics, engineering, design, our Solar System, our planet, and concepts that we just don’t teach at the middle school level about our Moon, our Sun, and the excitement of planetary exploration as the final frontier.

This year we thank NASA for allowing us to continue our work with inner city youth to inspire them to say, “Wow!” I have done my intro activity on the Universe hundreds of times with students, teachers, and adult participants. I have been on a personal fact-finding mission for the last eight years in putting my finger on where the disconnect occurs with students either loving or hating science and math. Sometimes these conversations were casual with students in the classroom and others were part of programs or workshops I conducted. This year I am going to add a new twist by posting what the young people say and visualize about our Universe, our Solar System, our Moon, our Sun, and most importantly the planet on which we live.

Misconceptions are hard to overcome because once we are told or make our own assumptions about science it is hard for us to change what we thought was true. Managing the SEMAA program in Chicago was a very special time in my life. As an educator, I know .we impact the lives and imaginations of our students but in most cases we never understand the depth of what we have accomplished. A year ago a man came up to me at a Chicago Public School board meeting and said hello. He then went on to tell me his granddaughter had been part of the SEMAA program and that she was now in college studying engineering. “She talks about you all of the time,” he said. She also tells her friends how coming to those SEMAA classes made her want to study science and engineering.” He continued to recount some of the more interesting things about the program as well as how I wore every hat under the Sun but as he talked I remembered his granddaughter and while we did not track our students I felt incredibly happy that SEMAA had planted a seed for her that she continued to cultivate.

And that’s what it’s all about. Planting seeds and engaging young people in learning STEM in ways that are non-traditional and fun. We have got to change the landscape of what was and what is to what can be. We need more girls in science and engineering and the classrooms, workplaces, and boardrooms need to reflect this as well. I talk to many female engineering students at IIT where our FIRST Robotics team is located and they all say the same thing. There are far too few females in their classes but they hold their own. We need more ethnic diversity as well. We can make this happen but it will take the collective work of many along with a determination to make the changes necessary one child at a time.

This is my mission and I am proud to accept and continue the challenge of “Inspiring the Next Generation of Explorers as Only NASA Can!


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