Space Foundation Awarded $1.5M Grant From Department of Defense Through National Defense Education Program

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

  • Funds directed to grow STEM education, outreach and workforce initiatives
  • Space Foundation is the only nonprofit selected among 15 recipients
  • Grant funds to scale Center for Innovation and Education over a three-year period

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Oct. 28, 2021 — Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem, today announced that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)), has selected Space Foundation as a $1.5 million grant recipient under the National Defense Education Program (NDEP) in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Biotechnology; and Enhanced Civics Education.

Space Foundation will receive the funds over a three-year period and utilize the grant for space, STEM, and entrepreneurship learning (SSEL) through Center for Innovation and Education, a division of Space Foundation. The project is designed to couple innovation and STEM education and develop skills needed by educators and students from local school districts to expand equity and access to underserved communities. The focus is to empower and create an agile STEM talent pool for the future.

In acknowledging the grant, Space Foundation Chief Operating Officer Shelli Brunswick offered, “Today’s global space ecosystem presents unprecedented opportunities for everyone to participate, but it requires building the skill sets and experiences to fulfill that enormous potential. Working together, Space Foundation and its partners can inform, inspire and shape those opportunities, and the NDEP grant is a tremendous investment in those efforts.”

“This grant allows our education department to spread the excitement and hope that a space-inspired curriculum brings to a community,” said Space Foundation Vice President of Education Dr. Autumn Thomas. “We know our program is highly effective, teaching entrepreneurial, cooperative, problem-solving, and STEM skills to young people in a unique and engaging way. We enjoy what we are doing, and this grant gives us the opportunity to transmit that enthusiasm outside of Space Foundation.”

Space Foundation is the only nonprofit grant awardee. The other 14 grant awardees consist of institutions of higher education and an education agency, all focused on activities related to STEM, including specific efforts toward biotechnology, a DoD modernization priority area.

Grant recipients will receive a total of $43 million in funds over three- or four-year periods, as outlined in each organization’s award. The goals for the issued funding are to engage students and educators through STEM education, outreach, and workforce initiatives from early childhood through postsecondary education and to expand biotechnology outreach and workforce development activities.

The effort led by Space Foundation will deliver a Junior Space Entrepreneur Program (JSEP) to ten cohorts of 30 participants apiece, locally in Colorado Springs, per year over three years. The ten cohorts will consist of two cohorts from community educational organizations (one per organization) and eight cohorts from local school districts (two per district). The organizations working with Space Foundation include:

  • Community organizations:
    • Upward Bound
    • Educational Talent Search, Pueblo
  • School districts:
    • Colorado Springs School District 11
    • Academy School District 20
    • Harrison School District 2
    • Widefield School District 3

Additional partners in the project include former NASA astronaut Duane “Digger” Carey, Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado, and a professional evaluation firm, Via Eval, who will conduct a formal assessment throughout the project.

“The Department of Defense is not only developing emerging technologies but also investing in the STEM workforce pipeline, which is critical to the Department and our nation’s security,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Ms. Heidi Shyu. “These recognized awardees are helping to widen the pipeline of STEM talent to ensure that the talent is diverse, providing opportunities for students of all ages and educators of all grade levels, including those in underserved and underrepresented communities, military-connected students, and veterans. These programs will implement innovative approaches to STEM education and outreach while providing awareness of the Department’s STEM career pathways.”

About Center for Innovation and Education

Center for Innovation and Education, a division of Space Foundation, is a lifelong learning platform for the global space ecosystem that offers workforce development and economic opportunity for students, teachers, entrepreneurs, and professionals via digital programming or live at Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Through its Workforce Development Roadmap, sponsored programs, and global collaborations, Center for Innovation and Education enhances the outlook and opportunities for new jobs, careers and new business ventures through its Space Commerce Entrepreneurship Programs, New Generation Young Professional Program, Professional Teacher Training, and Space-Inspired Curriculum. To learn more about Center for Innovation and Education, please visit, and visit to learn more about Space Foundation Discovery Center.

About Space Foundation

Space Foundation is a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983, offering a gateway to information, education and collaboration for space exploration and space-inspired industries that define the global space ecosystem. Driven by a partnership model, Space Foundation operates three divisions that unite the entire spectrum of stakeholders — business, government, education, and local communities — through corporate membership, sponsorship, fundraising, and grants. Symposium 365 is the premier source for media and events, including the world-renowned Space Symposium and The Space Report. Center for Innovation and Education is a lifelong learning platform. Global Alliance facilitates collaboration around the world. Visit Space Foundation at, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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Tags: Space Foundation, Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Center for Innovation and Education, space economy, space technology, space innovation, space ecosystem, space advocate, STEM, STEM education, STEM outreach, STEM workforce initiatives

Media Contacts:

Rich Cooper
Vice President, Strategic Communications & Outreach
Space Foundation
(202) 596-0714
[email protected]

Dottie O’Rourke
TECHMarket Communications
(650) 344-1260
[email protected]