The Missile Defense Agency awarded the Inspiring Generations with New Ideas to Transform Education contract to the University of Alabama in Huntsville in September. With this contract of more than $506,000, UAH will offer new STEM-based learning experiences for K-12 students nationwide.
“In order for the country and economy to sustain dominance, there must be proficiency in STEM,” Jacqueline Martin, MDA STEM Outreach lead, said.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The Department of Defense has promoted STEM education efforts as part of developing the next-generation technical workforce. More students pursuing technical fields ultimately leads to a larger pool of technical experts who might choose to work on research and engineering problems related to national defense.
The contract extends the services of the MDA STEM Outreach program and reaches underrepresented target schools. Additionally, it brings a new element to teacher professional development. Actions serve to minimize STEM education gaps and prepare the next-generation of scientists and engineers.
IGNITE has three activities: Exploring Collaborations to Inspire Transformations in Education; Data Evaluation from Testing via an Educational Challenge with Teachers and Students; and Realizing Alternatives and Multiple Pathways by Unlocking your Potential. The goal of the effort is to implement EXCITE and DETECTS projects in K-12 school systems and expand support of MDA STEM Education workshops through the RAMP UP program.
“High quality, early-learning environments and experiences foster lifelong interest in STEM and provide a strong foundation to build upon,” Martin said. “This is why the MDA STEM Outreach program leans forward in identifying new and innovative ways to coach, support and inspire the future workforce.”
EXCITE is a hands-on, project-based, learning experience for high school students. In their challenge, students use additive manufacturing to design and build the structural and internal components of a one unit CubeSat to accomplish a mission in Low Earth Orbit. A 1UCubeSat is a research satellite built to standard dimensions of 10 centimeters cubed. Students who participate in EXCITE organize and conduct community outreach events to engage middle and elementary school students in STEM.
DETECTS tasks high school students to develop an experiment that could be performed on a very small computer, known as a Raspberry Pi, and could fly on an external pallet on the International Space Station. Over two semesters, teams design and develop their science experiment, then environmentally test their payload. Students analyze large amounts of data, then extract the meaningful information and reduce the data into a concise report.
RAMP UP focuses on Project Based Learning Experience workshops for teachers to extend professional development with new STEM concepts for the classroom. Outside of workshops, teachers can receive follow-on support to include a classroom tool kit and consultation from a STEM education hotline.