Students attending the Smartforce Summit this morning had the privilege of listening to our keynote speaker– NASA astronaut and dedicated educator, Captain Wendy Lawrence. Captain Lawrence joins us today from Sally Ride Science, an organization founded by Sally Ride to ignite interest in students in STEM learning and careers. Sally Ride was an inspiration to Captain Lawrence, who now continues her passion and legacy by speaking with America’s students about the opportunities and resources available to them.
Captain Lawrence started by debunking the stereotypes of the “typical scientist” like the cartoon mad scientist with crazy white hair, or the socially inept characters on The Big Bang Theory. “They do not have three eyes, they do not have green hair, they do not have two heads,” Captain Lawrence joked. Rather, she gave examples of what the science community is like– both men and women doing super cool jobs like working with robotics or even designing roller coasters.
The overlap between manufacturing and science is especially cool. Did you know there are 2.5 million individual pieces that make up the space shuttle? Every single one of those pieces had to be designed and manufactured. And its not just the pieces that make up the space shuttle, there are also the rovers, lasers, and satellites that astronauts work with. These manufacturing jobs are not only super cool, they are extremely lucrative, and, Captain Lawrence noted, do not necessarily require a four year degree. Rather, all you need is a strong STEM foundation.
“Don’t be intimidated by STEM,” she encouraged the students,”it allows you pursue your dreams.” She noted that although most students 4th grade and younger express interest in STEM fields, by middle school interest dissipates substantially. Subsequently, those students are missing out on lucrative careers and 51% of employers don’t have enough skilled workers.
To combat this, Sally Ride Science provides students with a multitude of resources for not only STEM studies, but the pursuit of STEM careers. They have books to help foster STEM learning, questionnaires to help students determine the STEM career they would most enjoy, and professional development programs to help the student then pursue that career. Sally Ride Science is one of the best support networks a student could have and we are so grateful Captain Lawrence took the time tell our students about it today.