Students meet with federal leaders: Highlights from the October 28 panel

On October 28, students and teachers had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Department of Education (ED), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The panelists discussed how their agencies are connecting with the future workforce, offered recommendations for students interested in pursuing similar careers, and answered questions. Moderated by ED Program Specialist Albert Palacios, the panel featured Diane DeTroye from NASA, Eleanour Snow from USGS, and Wayne Monteith from FAA.

Watch the video recording and read highlights below. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.) For a complete overview of questions and answers from past virtual sessions, review the challenge FAQ.

What early experience sparked your interest in your field?

Eleanour Snow: In spring of my freshman year, I took a geology class. The teacher passed around this rock, and it looked like an ordinary rock. But it was 3.5 billion years old. I held that rock in my hand and I tried to contemplate that much time. I called my parents up, and I said, “I’m going to be a geology major.” And my mom said, “Of course, honey. I’ve got a whole garage full of rocks you’ve collected over the years.”

Diane DeTroye: My background is in business management, and I came late to my interest in space. I think it was really ignited, if you will, when I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the very first space shuttle launch. And at that point, I said, “Working for NASA would be really cool.” I combined that with my interest in working with people and came into the Office of Education that works with students, teachers, universities, museums.

Wayne Monteith: In high school, I got sucked into science and ended up taking AP physics, chemistry, and biology thinking that I would fly for the Air Force one day. I went to ROTC, and unfortunately my vision wasn’t good enough to fly. So they gave me an opportunity to be in the rocket business. Three decades later, I finished up my Air Force career running Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

What top skills do you and your team use every day, and how can students build them?

Diane DeTroye: Interdisciplinary teams are the lifeblood of what NASA does. We’ve got scientists, engineers, technologists, project managers, communicators, and people who do procurement for us all working together to achieve this ultimate goal. That means you’ve got to be both a good leader and a good follower, and you’ve got to learn when it’s important to do one or the other. That ability to communicate — tell other people what you’re doing, ask questions if you don’t know, share what you’ve discovered, and communicate about your progress on your part of the task — is all very critical.

Eleanour Snow: I would say that makerspaces are really key. CubeSats do that, LEGO Robotics does that, Odyssey of the Mind does that. There’s a lot of formal ways to get involved in that. You can also just do it on your own. Play with things because those kinds of skills do two things for you. First of all, they give knowledge that can be useful, but second of all, they really involve creativity. If you’re trying to figure out how to make something work, then you’re exercising your creative muscles.

Wayne Monteith: Along with curiosity, I would say you’ve got to work hard, no matter what you do, and you’ve got to be passionate about it. I still get up every morning as excited to do what I do for a living as I did 30 years ago when I started my journey in space, and so for me, every day is not like work. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh. I get to go do fun stuff that involves rockets.”

Discover federal opportunities

The FAA’s Airport Design Challenge gives students the opportunity to design virtual airports in Microsoft Minecraft using guidance from FAA aerospace and engineering experts. Join the mailing list to be alerted about future events.

NASA STEM seeks to engage students and teachers in NASA’s mission. Explore educational resources, challenges, and STEM experiences. 

The Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest invites K-12 students to imagine leading a one-week expedition to the Moon’s South Pole — and to write an essay for NASA about it. Entries are due by December 17, 2020.

During the 2020-21 academic year, NASA STEM is celebrating the International Space Station through monthly themes that connect 20 years of space station experiments to K-12 STEM curricula.

The NASA STEM Stars webchat connects students with subject matter experts to learn about STEM careers and ask questions about STEM topics. The series is aimed at ages 13 and over.

NASA is taking steps to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon, and the agency wants to know: What would you pack for a trip to the Moon? Students are invited to share a photo on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with #NASAMoonKit.

Careers @ NASA gives students the opportunity to learn about working at the space agency. Students can get started by exploring career pathways, internships, and fellowships and learning about real-life NASA employees.

Stay updated on CTE Mission: CubeSat

The deadline to enter the national challenge was October 16, but curated educational resources remain available to students and teachers through the challenge resource hub. To receive the finalist announcement and news about future learning opportunities, subscribe to the CTE Mission: CubeSat newsletter.

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