At a school where students are greeted every day by images of science and technology heroes like astronaut Mae Jemison, it should come as no surprise lots of El Rincon Elementary School students are obsessed with space.
Over the past two weeks, El Rincon students at all grade levels have engaged with volunteers from Space Systems Command (SSC) who visited as part of the Space STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Outreach Program, a collaboration between SSC and the STEM Coalition.
SSC is the U.S. Space Force field command responsible for fielding and protecting our space capabilities. The STEM Coalition is a non-profit focused on educational outreach in the ever-growing field of STEM.
As part of the outreach effort, the volunteers are explaining the importance of STEM in humanity’s pursuit of knowledge in space; why it’s important for students to focus on academics, even when school is challenging; the benefits of higher education and attending college; and the kinds of jobs the volunteers have within the Space Force.
Students will get to build rockets out of paper and tape and then launch them in a simulated launch sequence as though they were actually in a launch control center. These rockets can fly more than 100 feet into the sky before safely coming down.
“This is a great opportunity to get students excited about space, rockets and satellites and to show them how STEM is used to solve real-world problems and can lead to exciting careers,” said Jonathan Stroud, SSC STEM Outreach Director. “Our volunteers also are enjoying the chance to explain how STEM courses helped them in their careers and encouraging the students to stick with STEM—even when it gets challenging.”
Fifth-grader Kamora Reed, 10, said she was excited to get engineering tips directly from some of the people who actually help design real rockets.
“I like science and I like experimenting,” said Reed, who added that she was designing her rocket with some important principles in mind. “The fins have to be straight, and the fins and the rocket have to be smooth so that the rocket can fly high up into the air.”
In addition to helping students design and launch their rockets, volunteers impressed upon students the many careers open to them in STEM fields.
Lt. Avery Evans, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate (pictured above), told students that math will help them no matter what career they choose.
“The better you do in math, the better you will do in solving everyday problems,” she said. “Math and science will definitely help you become good problem solvers.”
Lane Gilchrist, founder and president of the STEM Coalition, said, “We’re so excited to bring awareness of Space and STEM education to the next generation. They are the pathway to the future, and we need everyone to have a basic STEM background.”