The Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) Foundation announced today that a recent poll of more than 200 teachers who participated in its 2006 and 2007 Weightless Flights of Discovery Program reveals the initiative is meeting its goal in driving student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The findings, which come amid the conclusion of the third year of the Weightless Flights of Discovery Program, are an encouraging sign given the demand for skilled and talented labor to fill the technology and engineering jobs necessary for everything from the development of alternative sources of energy, to new technologies, to space exploration.
By focusing the Weightless Flights program on teachers rather than students, the program has achieved maximum ``reach'' for the lessons of its microgravity ``classroom,'' delivering inspiration to an estimated 25,500 elementary, middle school and high school students in its first three years. This year, teachers from around the country participated in the program, which made stops in San Jose, Calif.; ``Florida's Space Coast;'' Atlanta; and Chicago. It is expected the participation of this year's teachers will reach an estimated 6,000 students with the message that ``science is cool.''
According to the online poll of 205 teachers who participated in year one and two of the Northrop Grumman Foundation program, 91.9% report a notable increase in their students' overall interest in science. Additionally, 74.6% report an increased number of students expressing a desire to continue to study science and math in high school and/or college; with 77.8% of teachers reporting a rise in the number of students who have expressed a desire to pursue a career in a science or math related field - a key goal of the Northrop Grumman Foundation program.
Traci Bourgeois, a teacher at Patrick F. Taylor School in Jefferson, New Orleans, who participated in the 2007 weightless flights program, said, ``I have students who for the first time want to become engineers instead of doctors or lawyers.''
``The results from this poll are truly exciting and indicative of what the Northrop Grumman Foundation is all about in its mission to impact STEM,'' said Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation and vice president of Office of Corporate Responsibility for the company. ``The need to ensure the competitiveness of the U.S. in the areas of engineering and technology for the future remains a very real challenge, and much of the solution lies within our ability to instill a passion and interest in science and math among the next generation.''
Nearly two-thirds of teachers (60.7%) also report more of their students are participating in science club and other related extra-curricular activities. Participants also reported a turnaround in the number of notably disengaged students. According to 83.5% of teachers, students who were previously disinterested in science and math have shown marked interest. One respondent cited a third grade student with a discipline problem who so enjoyed hearing about his teacher's experience that the student signed up for an additional science-related inter-session course, created successful experiments, and has now set his sights on one day being part of the U.S. space program.
Charles Fulco, who teaches at Port Chester Middle School in Port Chester, N.Y., said, ``I formed an after-school science club because of my flight, and now have about 15 very interested children doing all sorts of science-related experiments and field trips.''
``The Northrop Grumman Foundation provided me with an unforgettable experience to which my students most definitely benefit,'' said Catherine Meechan of Salem Middle School in Virginia Beach, Va. ``My students are empowered to take my achievements a step further, and they could be astronauts or rocket scientists.''
The Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery program is an initiative that places teachers on micro- and zero-gravity flights to test Newton's laws of motion so that the participants may energize students in the formative middle-school years. Selected teacher participants take part in a flight aboard a 727 aircraft that creates weightlessness and lunar and Martian gravity environments in the cabin by running parabolic (arc-like) flight patterns. Prior to the flights, teachers participate in one-day workshop where they learn about science and engineering concepts, zero-gravity environments, and science and math curriculum development. The Northrop Grumman Foundation's sponsorship enables participants to take part in the program at no cost, excluding expenses related to travel to and from the workshops and flights.
According to the poll, 95.6% of teachers said they have incorporated their weightless flight experiences into their lesson plans; one teacher reported the creation of a school-wide ``gravity day,'' and another used in-flight video of a ball dropping in front of a tape measure to have students determine what ``G'' they were in by calculating the acceleration.
The Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery program is one of several initiatives the foundation sponsors in support of promoting education and student interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The foundation has targeted middle-school math and science teachers primarily because the United States is experiencing a shortage of college graduates in these disciplines, a development that bodes ill for the nation's industries that depend on talented scientists and mathematicians. Because studies have indicated most children make the decision to pursue math and science education and careers during middle-school, the Northrop Grumman Foundation developed the Weightless Flights of Discovery to engage teachers, key influencers in the lives of students during these crucial years.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.
Contact: Tom Henson
Northrop Grumman Corporation
Rosalie Hagel / Jennifer Herrera