Innovation for Every Season

After an amazing and intense summer of learning, a whirlwind of STEM excitement has carried us into the fall.  First, we had the conclusion of the Summer of Innovation at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., October 23-24. Then, on October 25th I provided a message of inspiration to students in schools throughout the United States, Canada and South Africa. The Net Generation of Youth (NGY) Virtual Visit dialogue was part of an International Education Forum convened by Congresswoman Diane Watson in honor of educators and partners who use technology, inquiry and project-based learning, and NASA resources to inspire youth to aspire, achieve academically, and pursue STEM careers. 

During the visit, I had the pleasure of interacting with over 250 students from a variety of schools including: Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center in Los Angeles, California; Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, in Stamford, Connecticut; and Oude Molen Academy of Science and Technology in Capetown, South Africa.

The students and staff responded enthusiastically to my presentation entitled “Living Your Dream . . .” where I shared perspectives from my life experiences.  I stressed the impact that a few crucial moments and mentors have had on my career, the importance of education, and the influence of my parents who are both educators. I responded to insightful questions from the students who asked about my childhood heroes, space exploration as a career option, the future of space tourism, the impact of microgravity on the body, motion sickness and astronauts, daily hygiene in space, and celebration of holidays in low Earth orbit.

Leland talks with students (inset) and in orbit on shuttle

Finally, I was energized by the ability to apply the latest online and multimedia technologies to reach out to students across the US and around the world.  How thrilling it is to have teachers and students chatting with their peers and with me, a NASA astronaut in Washington DC, and join in other interactive NASA activities like EarthKAM missions and Digital Learning Network webcasts. All of this really supports NASA goals in education, as well as the Agency’s Open Government plan and participatory exploration initiatives.  I look forward to additional activities like this one that enable us to engage students throughout the world with NASA’s mission and to collectively foster STEM education.  

NASA’s efforts launched as part of the Summer of Innovation continue to bear fruit, and this fall (or spring in other parts of the world) is the start of many more new beginnings.

Reach for the stars!