WASHINGTON — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden today visited the MathScience Innovation Center in Richmond, Va., to meet seventh and eighth-grade students from the city’s Albert Hill Middle School. Bolden discussed his military and space career and the importance of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education for tomorrow’s careers. In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Obama emphasized the importance of STEM education for the U.S. to compete globally and create jobs.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott joined Bolden and science center executives for the event. “President Obama’s call for us to win the future means we need to develop the skills and capabilities to stay competitive in the global economy,” Administrator Bolden said. “Today’s students have the opportunity to build and take part in tomorrow’s big adventures and keep our country strong and competitive through science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
STEM education is the foundation of NASA’s learning initiatives, such as the Summer of Innovation (SoI) project. Begun in 2010, the project engages middle school students in STEM studies and hands-on, or participatory, exploration during the summer hiatus, when many lose academic skills acquired during the school year. SoI also supports a continuum of coordinated services to engage students in meaningful ways through summer and extended learning during the school year. NASA will announce this year’s Summer of Innovation plans in the spring.
“Americans have never been afraid of the future, and we shouldn’t start now. We know what the challenges are, and we know that these new times demand new thinking and new skills, including advanced math and science,” Sen. Warner said. “We need to face up to these challenges by working together to make sure that our young people get a fair chance to compete, and to win, in the race for the future.”
The MathScience Innovation Center’s goal is to be the innovator, incubator and advocate of 21st Century math and science programs for the Virginia capital region’s kindergarten through 12th grade educators and students. It also houses the Challenger Learning Center for Space Science Education. Today marks the 25th anniversary of the loss of space shuttle Challenger and her crew of seven.
Before Bolden, Warner and Scott took the stage, students had an opportunity to engage in hands-on activities related to science and exploration, including a rocket-building exercise. Education staff from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., led the activities. Studies have shown that hands-on, experiential learning is a key factor in capturing students’ interest in technical fields and inspiring the next generation to reach new heights.