Space Foundation Press Releases

Florida Educator to Receive the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award at 25th National Space Symposium

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Mar. 6, 2009) — Ricardo V. Soria, assistant principal of Choctawahatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., has been named the 2009 recipient of the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award. Given by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Space Foundation, the award will be presented March 30 during the Opening Ceremony of the 25th National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Themed The Next Space Age, the 25th National Space Symposium brings together all sectors of space – civil, commercial, national security, new space entrepreneurship, and finance – to highlight accomplishments and address opportunities and issues facing the global space community today. The agenda includes presentation of a number of prestigious space-related awards, including the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award.

Soria was selected for his role in creating the Engineers For America (EFA) program, an innovative elementary school initiative that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education through hands-on flight, aviation and aerospace activities. The program has two major components: a two-day “Teach the Teacher” workshop prepares teachers to use aviation-based resources and activities to integrate STEM into the classroom; and one-day “Reach the Student” events at the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum at nearby Elgin Air Force Base give students a unique opportunity to conduct experiments in an interesting and inspiring venue.

The students who participate use reading, writing, mathematics, science and spelling skills to solve aircraft-related problems. Aligned with Florida Department of Education standards, the classroom and on-site activities use research and data collection techniques based on NASA protocols combined with fun hands-on projects such as creating parachutes, testing balsa-wood airplanes against fan-induced “headwinds,” and using home-made galvanometers to measure magnetic fields.

Teachers and students love the program because it teaches the way children like to learn. Many teachers have noticed improvement in students’ test scores and in their classroom performance as a result of their involvement in EFA.

“The best way to improve the nation’s technological brain power is to grow our own engineers, mathematicians and scientists – and the best way to do that is to get children interested and educated at a young age,” said Iain Probert, vice president, education, Space Foundation. “Rick Soria epitomizes the kind of educators we need to make that happen.”

“This was an intense national competition with high-quality applicants from all sections of the country,” said Stephen Feldman, Ph.D., president, AMF. “Rick’s program is innovative, produces excellent results, and has the support of the school district, which is committed to seamless K-12 STEM education.

“Rick targets both students and teachers by equipping teachers with strategies for making math and science relevant,” Feldman added. “We are pleased to join NASA and the Space Foundation in giving the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award to someone who is making a difference in such an exciting and creative way.”

As winner of the award, Soria will receive a commemorative trophy engraved with his name and a monetary award of $500. In addition, his name will be placed alongside past recipients on a plaque at the Center for Space Education at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“It is truly a pleasure to be recognized for what I would gladly do for nothing,” said Soria upon notification of his selection. “The role teachers play in preparing the next generation of engineers, aero/astronauts and technical professionals is one most do with commitment and passion and little fanfare. Every once in awhile, a colleague or a former student shares a success that reminds you that you are on track. I am humbled that the AMF, NASA and the Space Foundation consider our EFA Initiative such a great contribution to K-12 STEM advancement. We do.”

The AMF, NASA, and the Space Foundation present the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award annually for outstanding contributions to technology education made by K-12 educators or district-level personnel. The award is named after Alan Shepard, one of the nation’s original seven Mercury astronauts, the first American to fly in space, one of only 12 humans who have walked on the moon, and a former AMF board member. It recognizes excellence, quality, and innovation in the development and application of technology in the classroom or to the professional development of teachers. This year’s judges included two astronauts, representatives from NASA, the AMF and the Space Foundation, and Alan Shepard’s daughter.

Recipients demonstrate exemplary use of technology to foster lifelong learners or to make the learning process easier. More information about the award is available at

The Space Foundation’s 25th National Space Symposium offers workshops, forums, panels and presentations covering all aspects of space, a number of special dinners and luncheons, presentation of space-related awards, and the Boeing Exhibit Center representing more than 140 organizations and companies. More than 7,500 registrants, guests, speakers, exhibitors, and media representatives from around the world are expected to attend.

The Symposium also includes a full-day workshop for Space Foundation Teacher Liaisons, a group of nationally recognized educators who are passionate about space science. The event will have staying power in the form of hands-on curriculum that the teachers can immediately take back to their classrooms. Experienced Teacher Liaisons will also have an exclusive “field trip” to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) facilities in Boulder, Colo.

Teacher Liaisons may bring their local students to experience various aspects of the 25th National Space Symposium: high school students will tour the Boeing Exhibit Centers; 3rd through 8th graders will attend “Audience with an Astronaut” sessions. College graduates and transitioning military personnel can attend the Space Career Fair where they will hear from and meet with hiring space companies.

Co-sponsors of the symposium include Aerojet, The Aerospace Corporation, a.i. solutions, Analytical Graphics, Inc, ATK, ARES Corporation, ASRC Federal, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boeing, Braxton Technologies, Cisco Systems, Inc., Cobham, General Dynamics, Hitachi Consulting, Honeywell, IBM, Infinite Links, Integral Systems, Inc., Intelsat General Corporation, International Space University, ITT, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, The Mitre Corporation, New Mexico Space Grant, Northrop Grumman, Pikes Peak Workforce Center, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Raytheon, Regis University, SAIC, SEAKR Engineering, Inc., SERCO, SpaceX, Stellar Solutions, United Launch Alliance, United Space Alliance, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Webster University. Media partners are Aviation Week, Defense Systems, Space News, and Via Satellite.

Online registration and more information, including an updated program agenda, confirmed speaker list, and exhibitor list, are available at Information on the Space Career Fair can be found at

About the Space Foundation
Founded in 1983, the Space Foundation is an international nonprofit organization advancing space-related endeavors to inspire, enable, and propel humanity. A leader in space awareness activities, major industry events, and educational enterprises that bring space into the classroom, the Space Foundation is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo. It conducts research and analysis and government affairs activities from its Washington, D.C., office and has field representatives in Houston, Texas, and Cape Canaveral, Fla. In addition to the 25th National Space Symposium, the Space Foundation, along with partnering organizations, will also conduct Space Business Forum: New York on June 4, 2009, in New York, N.Y., and Strategic Space and Defense 2009 from Oct. 6 – 8, 2009, in Omaha, Neb. For more information, visit