Browsing articles in "Latest Buzz"

Eclipse Across America 2017

Aug 21, 2017   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments
Total Solar Eclipse

Image Credit Space.com

And the countdown begins!  We are just shy of twelve hours on our Eclipse 2017 countdown.  Yes this is a big event and some people are taking it as a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  The fact about eclipse’s is that they occur roughly every eighteen months yet knowing where the path of totality will cross during and eclipse is what makes this one so special!  It’s been 38 years since North America was on the path of totality so even though many of us have to travel a few, if not many, miles to reach a spot where totality will occur, it is definitely going to be worth the trip.

I live in Chicago which is not in the path of totality and I have seen a few partial eclipses but never a total eclipse.  I’m sure our tourist office would be a lot happier if Chicago got more than 87% coverage but still that’s a pretty good partial eclipse.  I never realized that living in the Midwest would one day yield such a treasure as not just one but two total solar eclipses.  If you missed this one, 2024 will offer up the same show and in the same location.  If you are in Illinois, Carbondale is on the path of totality for both the 2017 and 2024 total eclipses. Below is a cool interactive path of totality map that you can use to see how much of the eclipse you will see.  Great for teaching longitude and latitude!  Click on the image to go to the NASA Eclipse page and the interactive map.

Interactive Eclipse Map

Image Credit NASA

The science is incredible as there is so much that can be observed, learned, and used to teach everybody about the Sun/Earth connection as well as lots of cool facts about our Moon.  Wherever you may be, DO NOT LOOK at the eclipse without a pair of safety rated eclipse glasses.  The radiation from the Sun during the partial eclipse can damage your eyes.  The same for cameras.  DO NOT TAKE PICTURES ON A CAMERA WITHOUT A SOLAR FILTER.  This includes cell phone cameras too.  The only time it is safe to look at the Sun without eclipse glasses is during the two or so minutes during totality which is a sight to behold.

Capturing the eclipse on camera is a great way to remember the event but remember that capturing with a camera takes away from the experience. (I learned that during my first shuttle launch).  The eclipse will be streamed, live on the Web, and captured by NASA satellites and missions so  put down the cameras and look up!  You can catch the whole show in re-runs.

Safe travels and safe eclipse viewing!

Toy Fair 2017 – STEM Toys

Feb 19, 2017   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Let the fun begin!  Toy Fair NY 2017 opened yesterday and once again we were in attendance and as always, the show never fails to have more offerings and new product launches than one reporter can take in over four days.  We will be back with updates from the show through Tuesday.  One show highlight this year is UBTech’s AutoBot robot kits.  They are a true mix of STEM engagement that includes every acronym in the name.  There is the building (engineering) part that children will love.  Coding is also friendly and easy to learn making your AstroBot creation come to life!  We’ll have an interview from UBTech coming online shortly so stay tuned for this as well as all the cool and new STEM toys from Toy Fair 2017!

AstroBot from UBTech

UBTech’s AstroBot

 

Lieutenant Nyogta Uhura

Aug 4, 2016   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

My second passion next to all things space and inspiring girls to embrace the reality that they can be a part of this STEM landscape is collecting Barbie® dolls. Toys and comics, especially those that are SciFi themed, have always been favorites of mine since I was a little girl so when I saw the new Lieutenant Uhura Black Label Barbie® doll, I had to buy her.  The following is a description of the Uhura doll:

Star Trek @50: Lieutenant Uhura Barbie doll

Mattel’s Lieutenant Uhura Barbie® doll

Release Date: 6/1/2016

Expected ship date: 7/7/16

As Star Trek™ turns 50, we look back and celebrate one of the most influential series of all time. Dressed in her iconic red uniform, Lieutenant Uhura stands poised and powerful. Managing all incoming and outgoing ship communications, Uhura is an integral part of the U.S.S. Enterprise command crew. Uhura is smart, savvy, and futuristically fabulous, with a face sculpted in the likeness of the actress who brought this groundbreaking character to life.

TM & © 2016 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The image is from the Barbie Collector website where she can be ordered.  For me, the Lieutenant Uhura doll is more than just another beautiful African American Barbie® doll.  In 1966, when Star Trek first hit the television airwaves, I was a young girl whose head was already in the stars.  My reason for tuning in every week wasn’t so much to follow the episodic adventures of the USS Enterprise (1701) and her crew but to watch Nichelle Nichols in her role as Communications Officer Nyota Uhura on the bridge alongside Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Mr. Sulu, and Mr. Chekov.  Her character was a bold addition to Star Trek that added to the diversity on the bridge of the Enterprise and, as explained in the authorized biography of Gene  Roddenberry as well as in interviews with Ms. Nichols, the African female communications officer was as intentional as Hikaru Sulu, the Asian helmsman, and Russian navigator, Pavel Chekov, and of course, Mr. Spock, science officer from the planet Vulcan.

Looking at my Uhura Barbie®, I thank Gene Roddenberry for sticking to his original idea of a diverse starship crew in the 23rd Century and refusing to give in to the then political views of men in suits who did not want audiences to see the possibility of an African woman in a position of equality with the other male characters on the bridge. Of all the characters in his original script for the show, Uhura was the one that studio executives openly objected to and in many cases demanded Roddenberry change the ethnicity/gender of Uhura or eliminate the character all together. For those readers who are not Trekkies or steeped in the backstory of the characters, Lieutenant Uhura, while portrayed in the television series by an African American woman (Nichelle Nichols), hails from the United States of Africa, a fictitious, futuristic political state where all African countries have come together. (Sulu’s character is similar as he was created to represent all Asians). NichelleNichols2x04-MirrorMirror-7Her native language is Swahili and her name means “Freedom.” As Communications Officer, her role was critical to the five year mission of the Starship Enterprise as she was responsible for the technical side of space communication as well as translation. The Universal Translator that is seen in her ear is but one of Roddenberry’s technology creations and allowed Uhura to translate alien transmissions and communications.

When we look at how communication has advanced over the last fifty years, what was science fiction has become science fact.  The flip phone, modeled after the Star Trek communicators, are now old technology and research is being conducted and prototypes are being  built and tested that will one day give everyone on the planet the ability to translate any language in matters of seconds.  Uhura was inspiration and a role model for every little girl, regardless of her ethnicity, to believe that one day in the future, she could be in space. Nichelle Nichols, who after season one decided to leave the show to pursue her career in musical theater, was persuaded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to remain as her character was too important and influential to young African American boys and girls, particularly his family, who he explained all watched her on Star Trek every week and were her biggest fans.  Aside from her work on Star Trek (TOS) and in subsequent Star Trek movies, Ms. Nichols used the significance and the power of the character of Lieutenant Uhura to recruit astronaut candidates for NASA.  Sally K. Ride, the first American woman in space, and Judith A. Resnick another member of the first women astronauts were recruited with the help of Ms. Nichols. The first two African American male astronauts, Guion Bluford and Ronald McNair, joined NASA as a result of her recruiting efforts as well.

The connection between Star Trek and NASA has been strong since Star Trek (TOS) first aired.  While Mattel has released Star Trek dolls in the past, the face sculpt of Uhura is beautiful and does a good job of coming very close the likeness of Nichelle Nichols.  I am keeping this one in the box in my collection but I will be buying a few more to create Uhura’s in costumes from other Star Trek episodes where she is not in her Star Fleet uniform as well as taking her around with me to workshops, talks, and other space programming I’m planning for the fall.  I am still amazed that for most of the students I have taught and currently teach, Star Trek is not part of “their universe.”  Many of them have never seen any Star Trek television episodes or movies and when I ask why the usual response is, “I’m not interested in that stuff.”  Bringing a Uhura Barbie® doll with me as a way to introduce girls to NASA, space, and technology was one of the first ideas that came to mind when I saw her on the shelf.  Seeing is believing and Uhura, fifty years later, is and will always be an inspiration to any girl or woman to believe that space is the final frontier to be conquered and as women there is a place in space for us.  To all girls who look up and wish on stars like I did wishes do come true.  So after you make your wish remember to add “Yes I can.”  Uhura is counting on you!

 

 

 

 

Marvel Set For New Iron Man Character

Jul 8, 2016   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Riri Williams

Riri Williams the new Iron Man

It’s not often I get excited about new character introductions in comic books but on July 6, 2016, Marvel officially announced that Riri Williams, a teenage, African American girl, would be stepping into the role of Iron Man at the end of the comic book event series Civil War II as Tony Starks steps out of his iconic creation. Riri Williams is a 15 year old science genius who enrolls at MIT and builds an Iron Man suit in her dorm room which of course gets Tony Starks attention. What’s important to note is while she has built an Iron Man suit and was created as a character to step into the role of Iron Man, her character name at this point has not been set.

As you read the article, Brian Michael Bendis, the creator and writer of Iron Man, spoke candidly to Time about the inspiration and creation his new character. “One of the things that stuck with me when I was working in Chicago a couple of years ago on a TV show that didn’t end up airing was the amount of chaos and violence. And this story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life — just random street violence — and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place.” (Time.com)

Since 2009, I have coached and mentored the only all-girls, city-wide FIRST Robotics Competition team in the City of Chicago proper that is composed exclusively with African American and Hispanic girls. Our focus on involving girls in areas of FIRST extend beyond the usual roles you find girls engaged in on many teams. Our work with the team has been hard yet gratifying and 2016-2017 looks to be the most promising year ever so the news of an African American 15 year old science genius stepping into the role of Iron Man in the pages of Marvel Comics was thrilling.

Marvel's Avengers Now

Avengers Now

It isn’t new news to comic book fans that Marvel has been expanding it’s superhero universe to include more diverse characters in regards to race and gender. The new Captain America is Sam Wilson who was formerly Falcon, Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man is half African American and half Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, and the new Avengers team A-Force, is led by all female characters. But not everybody in the fandom world is happy about these changes. New characters who have their own personalities and their own story lines appear to be more acceptable than replacing existing characters who are ethnically and gender different.

“These two topics in the world of comics are important to be aware of; gender and ethnicity are vastly significant topics in this day and age. As a generation, the millennials are less likely to just accept things that do not make sense, they were not brought up that way. They question what they do not understand and if they do not see fit to where these gender and ethnicity swaps take place they will question it. That is not to say just millennials, but everyone as well has a questionable factor about things that don’t make sense.” (The Artifice)

This has never been more true. Upon learning about the introduction of the New Riri Williams character, I tweeted about the possibilities of STEM involvement and engagement using her character as an inspiration as well as STEM literacy as a springboard. My tweet received several favorable likes and a few re-tweets but one incredibly outraged fan sent an expletive my way and mentioned that the whole Riri Williams announcement was for the most part an act of retardation. I had one additional person respond that black characters in Marvel are nothing new so “RU Oppressed?” based on my hashtag #changehurts. Well aren’t we all in some ways? I became the NASA Lady to bring the technologies of NASA from Space Shuttle launches, to missions, satellite deployments, and space science in general to an audience that has little to no involvement or knowledge of NASA or how they can become producers versus consumers of technology. Oppressed? That’s a topic for another blog post but anytime you present people, characters, or events where diversity in ethnicity and gender are absent, there is oppression. When I did the Moonbugy competition with my high school students, CNN did an article on the team titled they have to see it to be it.

Riri Williams fits this ideology perfectly. As this story line unfolds and Riri comes up with a name for her superhero persona, whether she becomes Iron Woman, Iron Teen, Iron Maiden, or something completely different will not have any affect on the impact a 15 year old African American girl who graduates early and gains admission to MIT and builds an Iron Man suit in not a lab but her dorm room can have on young girls who now can dream it, see it, and believe that they to can dare to do great things.

Adler & Astronauts: A Match Made in Space

Dec 22, 2015   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Eugene Cernan and Jim A. Lovell

Captain Eugene Cernan and Captain Jim A. Lovell meet the press at the Adler Planetarium’s film screening of “The Last Man on the Moon”.

To celebrate the anniversary of man’s last steps on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission, the Adler Planetarium hosted an exclusive screening of The Last Man on the Moon, a documentary based on the book of the same name by Captain Eugene Cernan, and a lively panel discussion following the film with NASA astronauts Captain Cernan and Captain Jim A. Lovell Jr. on Sunday, December 13, 2015.

Filmmaker Mark Stewart’s 90 minute documentary won’t be released to the public until 2016 and chronicles the lives of Apollo mission astronauts with a focus on Captain Cernan’s life as a young navy pilot to his selection into the astronaut program, going into and walking in space and finally leaving his steps, as well as his daughters initials on the moon’s surface. The archival footage takes us back in history to witness the successes, the tragedies, and the boldness of the human spirit as we began the space race. The film also shows the other, more personal side of the sacrifices and the losses in regards to wives and family that become part of the job.

Opening with Cernan standing on the now deserted Project Mercury launch complex in Cape Canaveral Florida, is a moving moment. For those unfamiliar with the location, it doesn’t give any hint that at one time Redstone and Atlas 5 rockets that carried Freedom 7 capsules with our nations first astronauts were launched from there into space. It is a nostalgic moment and adds to the film’s overall examination of not just the Apollo 17 mission but of the Mercury, Gemini, and all Apollo missions that preceded NASA’s last mission to the moon.

The magical part of meeting and talking to both Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell is in listening to their stories. Both men are in their 80’s. Cernan is 81 years old and Lovell is 87 yet the sparkle in their eyes and the laughter they both shared as they talked before the screening of the film are special moments that both of them have shared as NASA astronauts and trailblazers of our space program. As I talked with them and shared how my outreach to inspire young people to dream big and reach for the Moon and beyond as they did, I realized that opportunities such as this are very special and will, in the future, become nonexistent. We will have the newspaper articles, the television network archives, and NASA footage to look back and remember but it cannot compare, by any means, to living history of the live words of those who have lived the experiences.

In the Q & A that followed the film, both Cernan and Lovell gave personal reflections on looking at Earth from space and the awe that comes from the experience as well as a disappointment that NASA is no longer looking at the moon as a destination for exploration. I have done a lot of moon outreach programs over the years and when I do moon rock presentations in the future, I can add that I have met and talked to one of the astronauts who brought back Lunar samples from his walk on the moon. Our moon is an object of wonder and to quantify that statement, grab a telescope, go outside, and get the moon in the viewfinder. Then just let your eyes wander over the surface to see the craters, mountains, valleys and other surface features as they never appear in a one dimensional environment. At this point, you totally appreciate and understand Cernan and Lovell’s personal statements about our abandonment of the moon.

As he stood on the ladder before entering the Apollo 17 capsule, Cernan said,

“As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

Thanks to the Adler Planetarium for hosting an “out of this world’ experience. If you are in Chicago, visit the Adler and spend some time in the new “Mission Moon” exhibit which contains personal artifacts from Captain Lovell, an opportunity to look into his Gemini 12 capsule, and tells a more human side of the space race.

Explore and Soar: Rahm’s Readers Summer Challenge & Moon Rocks!

Aug 16, 2015   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, STEM Girls  //  No Comments

I have done some pretty cool and awesome STEM presentations, workshops, and activities over the years. This summer it was super awesome as I connected with the Chicago Public Library’s Explore and Soar: Rahm’s Readers Summer Challenge. The library branches that I have visited and presented so far this summer have all been incredible and I had an extra special presentation to share with the young people and their parents, NASA Lunar samples! Joserika & Me

The Lunar samples (Moon Rocks) have been a big hit and a huge draw. When was the last time you could tell someone, “I held rocks and soil samples from the Moon!” They are encased in a thick piece of Lucite however there are also two Earth rock samples, Basalt and Anorthosite, two igneous (volcanic) rocks that allow you to hold, examine, and then compare rock samples from Earth to those found on the Moon by NASA astronauts. When I talk about careers in STEM, I cover engineering, astrophysics, astronomy, scientists, mathematicians, robotics, coding, and a host of others but next to astronomy, geology is by far one of my favorite subjects.

Careers options for geologists at NASA and many other institutions and organizations that look at geological processes, land formation, and topographical studies, and others rely on people who know their rocks and the job possibilities are wide open. During my library presentations, I talk about rocks and allow the audience to make their own hypotheses as to how the samples brought back from the Moon are the same as the samples found on Earth. The Lunar samples have allowed us to take previous hypotheses we had about what the moon was made of to concrete factual evidence. Yes, the Moon is a large Earth rock!

NASA News

Moon craters

Impact craters on the Moon

Read more about the event that broke off a piece of the Earth and created our Moon as well as how NASA is looking at ways to help us learn more about the similarities of rocks on the Moon and here on Earth.

The summer reading challenge has opened up space as a career possibility for all the young people who have participated in the reading challenge and the activities that have been hosted at various Chicago Public Library branches throughout the summer that have enriched their opportunities to learn about space, space exploration, and STEM topics. The Explore More, extension of the summer program into August, has given me the opportunity to spread my love for space and all things NASA across the City of Chicago with so many wonderful young people and their parents.

I have four more presentations in the summer Explore More August series at branches across Chicago. If you can, bring the family, come out, meet me and the Lunar samples. Much thanks to NASA’s Johnson Space Center for allowing me the opportunity to bring these truly special samples to the public in Chicago!

For more information, visit chipublib.org. Pam Greyer—The NASA Lady—will be presenting her program at the following branch locations:

Tuesday, August 18 at 10:30 AM
Thurgood Marshall Branch
7506 S. Racine Ave.

Wednesday, August 19 at 6:15 PM
Beverly Branch
1962 W. 95th St.

Monday, August 24 at 1:00 PM
Dunning Branch
7455 W. Cornelia Ave.

Tuesday, August 25 at 11:00 AM
Rogers Park Branch
6907 N Clark St.

STEAM Powered Saturday: A Plutopalooza Celebration!

Jun 1, 2015   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  1 Comment

STEAM-Powered Saturday

Image: Chicago Public Library

It’s always awesome when I get to share my love of science and our Solar System with others. On Saturday, May 30 I spent the day with staff from the Chicago Public Library as part of their STEAM Powered Saturday at the Harold Washington Library Center and talked to many young people and their parents who stopped by to meet The NASA Lady and learn about Pluto and the New Horizons mission The NASA’s New Horizons mission was the spotlight of the day and the beginning of many Plutopalooza celebrations that I will be a part of this summer. It has been interesting to watch and listen to reactions from people when they talk about Pluto. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The once proud, yet small, 9th planet in our Solar System became a trending topic in August of 2006 when the International Astronomical Union (AIU) met and decided to downgrade Pluto to “Dwarf Planet” status because it did not meet all three criteria the AIU uses to define a full sized planet. It met all but the last criteria which requires a planet’s neighboring region to be free and clear of other objects. This would be really hard for Pluto because it is located in the Kuiper Belt and there are lots of other object near it.

Many people do not know or even care how this decision came about but they are all quick to join in the conversation and voice their opinion on the issue. Most people feel sorry for Pluto losing its designation as a planet while others believe that Pluto is simply gone. I learned this first-hand during my presentation when I asked people what they knew about Pluto. I got two really interesting responses: “It’s not part of our Solar System anymore” and “It blew up and it’s gone.” My presentation corrected these misconceptions but there are lots of people out here who still believe somehow in Pluto’s demise.

new Horizons spacecraft

Image Courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA’s New Horizons mission, which was launched in January of 2006, has arrived in the Pluto system and will make a close fly-by on July 14, 2015. New Horizons nine year journey has given lots of time for talk and pondering on the former planet Pluto. There are some who are actively fighting for Pluto to get its planetary status back. We won’t know if that will happen but dwarf planets may come up for discussion at the AIU’s annual meeting in 2018 and Pluto, along with other objects similar in composition and located at the outer region of our Solar System, could possibly get some planetary status back.

In the meantime, we are preparing for a real treat. New Horizons has begun sending images back. Here are all images from the LORRI instrument on the New Horizons probe.

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

New images will be available on the website as they are received.

Save the date, July 14, 2015, to witness clear pictures of Pluto. The discoveries that we’ll find on Pluto will be like presents wrapped up under the Christmas tree. Each image will be special and put Pluto a lot closer to our hearts.

Thanks to the New Horizons team lead by principal investigator Alan Stern and the excitement New Horizons is generating for everyone on Earth.

Sign up for the Pop-Up STEM Newsletter to find out where my Plutopalozza events will be popping up this summer!

Toy Fair 2015

Feb 17, 2015   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

.toyfair

Toy Fair 2015 is underway at the Javits Center in New York City. The largest toy show, open to the trade only, is where you can see previews of the hottest toys slated for release later this year as well as classic favorites, nostalgic toys, and the newest wave of technology powered play. We are doing interviews, product reviews, and putting special attention on toys and products that have a STEM focus. We are incredibly excited for the possibilities that lay before us in partnering with brands that will inspire and engage young people to embrace the concept of creative and innovative play while becoming immersed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Brands on our list that will be highlighted during the show are: Mattel, LEGO, McFarlane Toys, Wicked Cool Toys, Makey Makey, and a super list of other great toy companies. Stay tuned for live streaming, interviews, and really cool news coming from Toy Fair

Why Be An Engineer?

Oct 13, 2014   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

It’s interesting that I have been involved in STEM programs for the last twelve years and I have publicized, energized, and lately evangelized the importance of why we need, as a community, a city, a country, and even globally, to promote young people becoming excited about STEM and STEM careers. I was a product of involving girls in STEM in the 1960’s thanks to my father. He wasn’t an engineer but he supported my interest in science and moving things like trains, microscopes, and even that silly Mattel Creepy Crawler “Thing Maker.” “Girls don’t play with trains,” my mother told me when I was in high school as she attempted to reason with me to give my classic American Flyer train set away to my male cousin. “I never understood why your father gave you that train in the first place.”

She didn’t understand but at least I was able to keep putting the train up under the Christmas tree every year which kept her from secretly packing it up and giving it away as she did with many of my childhood toys and dolls. I was unaware that there was a career field called engineering and perhaps if I had known, I would have had an alternative in deciding to change majors in college. Engineering was an exclusive field that didn’t make it into the conversations or presentations in my high school. Perhaps the boys in the Physics class, an upper class elective, knew about engineering. The rest of us, however, were left aspiring to be doctors, lawyers, police officers, firemen, nurses, accountants, and other professions that we had been exposed to in elementary school and in our homes. I can’t remember ever hearing anyone talk about engineering in career day talks, college fairs, or in my high school counselor’s office. My mother worked for Delta Airlines. She wasn’t a mechanic, or an aeronautical engineer. She worked the public side of the airline industry. I never thought to ask her about the other side of the business and in her career day talks, I wonder if any students ever asked her about becoming a pilot, an airplane engine mechanic, or a designer of commercial aircraft.

Fast forward thirty years. In 1993, Congressman Louis Stokes of Cleveland, Ohio, concerned that minority students weren’t pursuing science and mathematics, worked with NASA’s Lewis Research Center and Cuyahoga Community College to create SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy). SEMMA was a STEM program at a time when nobody was calling science and mathematics STEM. The Internet was still a text based network with no images or color. Technology was computer science and Basic and Fortran were the programming languages being taught. Engineering, alas, was still not in the picture in most career awareness presentations. By the mid 2000’s, STEM started becoming the new buzz word. Unfortunately, as with all buzz words, many people and organizations, even many educational institutions, did not know how to properly implement STEM. I’ve judged science fairs that are now called STEM fairs where student projects had no engineering component in them anywhere. Now fast forward another twenty one years. As STEM has moved from an acronym that in 1993 was an obscure term used to encourage underrepresented and under-served populations to look at and become engaged in science and math in new, more engaging ways to stop that, “I hate math, I hate science,” mentality because “It’s hard,” into making STEM fun, exciting, interesting, imaginative, and purposeful. My question to everyone out there who has turned their science programming into STEM programming is, “Is it purposeful?” Are you working towards an end goal that will really inspire young people to WANT to go to college and major in a STEM career field and graduate then pursue a STEM career or are you just capitalizing on the acronym to gain funding, media attention, and student participation that costs parents and a year or two later those students are playing soccer, joining cheerleading and pom-pon squads, playing basketball, or involving themselves in other activities that are far removed from anything science, technology, mathematical, or technologically relevant. This is why, forty-five years after the United States landed on the Moon, we still have a huge shortage of qualified individuals in this country to fill the thousands of engineering jobs that are available.

Here is a blog post from Exon Mobile explaining why we need engineers. Let’s hope it doesn’t take us another forty-five years before we take the need to inspire and engage our youth to pursue engineering as a career.

Why Be An Engineer


America has a problem: Not enough U.S. students are pursuing engineering careers.why be an engineer

That troubling fact helps explain why there are currently millions of vacant jobs across our nation, even as the number of Americans not in the labor force is the highest it’s ever been.

There simply are not enough applicants with adequate skills to fill many of the most promising positions available in the 21st century. This lack of skills is especially acute in jobs that increasingly rely on science, technology, engineering, and math.

This set of circumstances is worrisome for science-based companies like ExxonMobil, of course. But more broadly it is troubling for America’s future competitiveness in the global economy.

To help address this predicament, ExxonMobil has launched a nationwide initiative seeking to inspire the next generation of engineers. Our Be an Engineer campaign aims to highlight the meaningful contributions that engineers make to the world, as well as provide resources to assist young people interested in pursuing the profession.

In the weeks and months ahead we’ll be running a number of commercials on television in support of this effort. You can catch them at ExxonMobil’s YouTube channel as well.

Over the next few weeks I will occasionally turn this space over to guest bloggers who will share their experiences as engineers and why engineering can make for a rewarding and valuable career. Among them is Dan Mote, longtime educator and currently the president of the National Academy of Engineering.

Today, though, I want to share with you a few thoughts on the state of engineering in America offered by our Chairman and CEO, Rex Tillerson.

Rex is an engineer himself, with a degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas. These remarks, culled from various interviews and speeches he has given the last few years, are instructive for why we are pushing ahead with our Be an Engineer initiative:

We’ve got to help young people understand how exciting the world of the engineer is to be able to create things that have never been created before. …

One of the challenges we’ve had as a profession is that young people don’t really know what an engineer does. And it can take on a certain connotation of being nothing more than a technician, when in reality scientists discover things and help us understand why they are. Mathematicians help us calculate and measure. …

Engineers are the marriage of science and mathematics. We take those two things, we put them together and we create everything around us, from your iPad to this building we’re sitting in to the medium that we’re broadcasting to people today to the houses we live in to the cars we drive. They are all engineering products.

I am confident that the more that young people actually learn what engineers do and accomplish for society, the more they will be drawn to pursuing careers in that direction.

Solar Eclipse

Oct 13, 2014   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

If you are in the Wisconsin area on Thursday, October 23, 2014 please come by Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay Wisconsin to view the partial Solar Eclipse. Yerkes is a Legacy Partner of my STEM outreach program and I can guarantee the experience will be well worth the trip!

Yerkes Observatory Solar Eclipse Event

Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin is offering a special opportunity for people to safely watch a partial solar eclipse: an astronomical event where the moon passes between the earth and the sun, appearing to block out part of the sun. This phenomenon is relatively rare to see.

The program will run from 4:00–6:00 pm on Thursday, October 23rd (the eclipse itself begins just after 4:30 pm). Various solar viewing instruments will be available for safely watching the eclipse. Some eclipse related activities will also be provided. We encourage people to arrive promptly at four, but that is not required; we will be open throughout the event. The event will occur regardless of weather.

The cost for this event is $5 per person, or maximum of $15 per family. Pre-registration is appreciated. Children must be accompanied by adults. No pets, please.

To register or for more information, please visit http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/, and follow the link on the home page.

Throughout the year Yerkes is open for free public tours on Saturday mornings, as well as offering special group tours and various programs. Other events at Yerkes are also posted on the website given above.

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