Inspiring a Generation
This month's Second View is by Space Foundation Vice President - Education Iain Probert. Anyone may submit a column for Second View by sending it to [email protected].
Unless you were en route to Mars, you would have been hard pressed not to realize that "the greatest games on Earth" were taking place this summer in London. The motto selected by the Olympic organizers was Inspire a Generation. So what inspired you this summer? Was it the nearly super-human athletic feats, the acts of bravery, the stories of personal sacrifice and utter dedication, the unselfish teamwork, or the tears of joy, relief, pain or sorrow?
I admit that I was inspired and, frankly, awed by all of these things. But London 2012 was not the only reason for me to feel a sense of wonderment about my fellow man. The athletes are not the only ones who will Inspire a Generation nor produce gold-level performances causing them to remain in the hearts and minds of others for years to come.
Here, then, is my own list of those who inspired me this summer as well as the events and the lasting legacies that will hopefully inspire generations for years to come. Each of these individuals or organizations helped to “advance, inspire, enable and propel humanity” in their own unique way:
- The many teachers from across the country (and indeed the world) who unselfishly took time out from their summer holidays to participate in one or more of the Space Foundation's graduate-level Space Across the Curriculum courses. By stretching themselves to learn new and complex subjects ranging from Meteorology and Space Weather to Biological and Physical Research, these educators will be coaching and inspiring the students of today who, in turn, will be the creative, economic and scientific powerhouses of tomorrow. At the most basic, the goal of these courses (not to mention the teachers) is to inspire generations through the wonders of the many science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines that the world requires and thus offers as future career choices.
- The math, science and traditional Upward Bound programs held at Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) in Trinidad, Colo., incorporating 75 students. These exemplary 14- to 18-year olds from varied backgrounds and from different parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas proved that their generation is both hungry for and deserving of the time and effort to inspire. The six-week residential programs run by the capable faculty and staff of TSJC are so good that they are worthy of further expansion. The Space Foundation was honored to play a small part in the development of these most accomplished, respectful and talented young people. They will go far and, with their engaging personalities, will inspire their peers, too.
- Anytime I journey onto the campus of the United States Air Force Academy it feels like there is magic in the air, and no less was the case this July. I observed the educator STEM Boot Camp that featured instructors from organizations anchored around the talents and organizational skills of the Academy's STEM outreach initiative and the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado. It was clear that this training camp will send the already passionate and wonderful K-12 educators back to their respective schools toned-up and ready to deliver to their students and colleagues world-class STEM programs.
- I feel privileged to have been able to be present during a very special luncheon in Waldorf, Md., where the Hon. Patti Grace Smith gave an inspiring and humbling talk directed to 15 teenage girls from Charles County Public Schools. Smith is a Space Foundation board member, former assistant administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and principal of Patti Grace Smith Consulting. She spoke of her youth and the struggles of segregation and encouraged the girls to never give up on their dreams. The young ladies attending this July event were hand-selected based on their expressed desire to pursue higher education and a career in one of the STEM fields.
- I'd like to give a nod to those parents and other significant adult care-givers, particularly of elementary-grade children, who have worked with youngsters over the summer holidays to keep them engaged with their education and thus help alleviate the effects of the "summer slide." In just one small example, simply by watching episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy®, and then performing the featured experiments at home, outdoors in parks and around other public spaces was, simply, pure encouragement for these most inquiring minds -- teaching them that "science rules."
- And then, as if scripted, in the final week of London 2012, we saw the successful rendezvous with the Red Planet of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover, Curiosity. It landed "bang on time" and seems thus far to be fit and able to compete with the surface and atmospheric conditions of Mars. Brilliant and very well done to NASA and its partners!
So I say, "top performance all the way around" to one and all. Like the events of London 2012, what each person involved in these events has done, are doing and will continue to do, certainly is an inspiration to a generation, indeed any and all generations.
As we travel beyond 2012, maybe Curiosity will find gold or discover the equivalent on Mars - or maybe not. However, just like the more than 10,000 athletes that represented humanity at the XXX Olympiad and the super-humans that are just about to take part in the XIV Paralympic Games, surely the journey itself is worth it.
Looking forward to autumn, as we begin to process the incredible accomplishments of this summer, I am very excited at the prospect of commencing the Space Foundation's own new journey. We will be hosting twelve K-12 classes at the Space Foundation Visitors Center at our world headquarters in Colorado Springs for the inaugural Wonders of the Universe state-standards-based educational program in the new Northrop Grumman Science Center, featuring Science On a Sphere®.
So here's to accomplishments, journeys, discoveries and programs of the future. As I look ahead to the beginning of academic year 2012/2013, I would like to take a moment to extend a warm welcome to all teachers, particularly those veterans now into their third decade and beyond and their new colleagues just launching their own teaching careers, as well as those veteran and first-time principals. May you find together the means to Inspire a Generation.
It seems apropos that the curtain fell on London 2012 with The Who playing "My Generation." At the end of the day, my personal list of summer inspiration has been all about my generation; your generation; their generation; and together our generations. Maybe this song by The Who could be a theme for Curiosity as she explores Gale Crater, not too far from her elder relation, Spirit.
This is my view from here...
P.S. Many readers have inquired about the young man who was featured in my previous column in these pages, and what path he chose to take. I can report that Kai has accepted a place at Fordham University in New York City. He was one of only 17 invited to be part of the prestigious Global Business Honors program.
As vice president - education for the Space Foundation, Iain Probert leads the Space Foundation education team and manages its resources to accomplish the Space Foundation's education and workforce development, mission and goals. Prior to joining the Space Foundation, Probert was an executive for the Boy Scouts of America and its affiliate Learning for Life organization. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electronic and computer engineering from Thames University, U.K., and a Master of Business Administration from the International Space University, Strasbourg, France.