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Challenger Center at Department of Labor: Inspiring a New Generation of Aerospace Engineers

Press Release From: Challenger Center for Space Science Education
Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007

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Arlington, VA - On October 18th, the Department of Labor (DOL) invited the Challenger Center for Space Science to participate in a conference with state lieutenant governors, NASA and leaders in aerospace education and industry. Discussions sparked by keynote speaker Dr. Eric Jolly, President of the Science Museum of Minnesota focused on the need for innovative solutions to inspire and motivate today's youth in the core subject areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to meet a critical shortfall of engineers in the workforce as baby boomers begin collecting their Social Security and leaving the workforce in droves.

General consensus of the roundtable participants was that middle school hands-on laboratory experiences were a particularly successful way of impacting the pre-high school students to choose to study STEM-disciplines. Rita Karl, Director of Educational Programs at Challenger Center, highlighted Challenger Centers' unique interactive space simulation experiences as a "premiere program that continues to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers".

50 Challenger Learning Centers across the U.S. engage over 400,000 students each year in positive learning experiences that raise student's expectations of success by fostering a long-term interest in mathematics, science and technology, motivating them to pursue a career in these fields. Challenger Center's train 25,000 teachers annually to incorporate project-based learning and to use the theme of space exploration to deliver educational and science content using critical thinking, decision-making, communication and teamwork. Referring to the recent industry report Rising Above The Gathering Storm, Lockheed-Martin's ex-CEO and Committee Chairman, Norman R. Augustine, has described Challenger Center as "exactly what I concluded was needed" to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers to join the 21st century workforce.

Endorsed by the Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Emily De Rocca, Challenger Center was highlighted as a model program that uniquely meets those needs of the aerospace industry. Workshop results will be folded into the Department's December Report to Congress. Other recommendations included scaling up wide-reaching programs such as Challenger Center, designing web-based communications and learning platforms that inspire, engage and educate students and teachers, and marketing specific campaigns using You Tube, MySpace and Facebook.

To learn more about Challenger Center for Space Science Education's network of 50 Challenger Learning Centers across the country, visit www.challenger.org

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education was founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts of the space shuttle Challenger 51-L mission. It is dedicated to the educational spirit of that mission.

Challenger Center for Space Science Education
1250 North Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22311
Shannon Rush, Development Associate
888-683-9740; srush@challenger.org

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