Subject: Dissecting Dolls and Other Habits of STEM Students
I got a chance to hear a marvelous speaker at the Professional Women Controllers conference earlier this week. Her name is Christine Darden and she is one of the NASA mathematicians who inspired the book Hidden Figures, which was later turned into an Oscar-nominated movie. She led some of the major research on supersonic flight and sonic booms.
Dr. Darden’s journey to becoming a mathematician, getting a doctorate and becoming the first African-American woman to be promoted to the Senior Executive Service at NASA’s Langley Research Center is inspirational. She was the kind of kid who took apart her doll to find out why it talked, and helped her dad with his car. She said it was important that her parents and others never told her that becoming a mathematician and an engineer was beyond her reach. A key to her career success was she sought education and jobs that always positioned her to claim the next best opportunity that came along.
Those are great takeaways as we continue to do our part to inspire more young people into the careers that are key to aviation success in the future – science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. I spoke to some high school students at SUN n’ FUN a couple weeks ago, and they were so excited about aviation and its evolving opportunities, an attitude we should do everything we can to foster.
Vaughn Turner, our vice president for Technical Operations, has been especially dedicated to promoting STEM with workshops, tours and presentations to high school students. Tech Ops adopted a school, Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus. Known as a TransSTEM Academy, the transportation arm of the STEM Academy, it has an immersive laboratory designed to inspire students with state-of-the-art computers, flight simulators and a miniature air traffic control tower.
Last month, Vaughn hosted academy students on a tour of the Command Center and the Potomac TRACON near Warrenton, Va., where they saw some of our air traffic and technical operations colleagues in action. They also got to participate in a panel with senior managers and executives who advised them on career and education paths. In May, Vaughn plans to host a speed mentoring workshop and presentation at headquarters with STEM students.
We also participated earlier this month in the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo at the Washington Convention Center. The drone cage was a big hit!
Other FAA leaders are attending recruitment and outreach events targeting STEM students as well, including the Aviation STEM Day planned at the Technical Center near Atlantic City on May 14. Every little bit helps as we show our brightest students the myriad possibilities that aviation holds for them, and help them see how they can make a difference. The sky is the limit for these kids!