ASA Delegation Pushes for Improved STEM Education

California Space Authority Press Release

California Lt. Governor John Garamendi joined Oklahoma Lt. Governor Jari Askins and Aerospace States Association (ASA) delegates in Washington, DC on March 9 for an ASA Capitol Hearing on Education, Aviation and Space. Considerable attention was devoted to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educational needs facing the industry.

“I am pleased that today’s program is highlighting the importance of STEM education to the aerospace industry,” stated Lt. Governor Garamendi. “To remain competitive in the 21st century global economy, California and the United States must better prepare students for high-wage science, engineering and technician jobs,” he continued.

In her opening remarks to the ASA delegates, Marion Blakey, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, underscored the importance of STEM and workforce development as the foundation of a strong aerospace industry. She was followed by the STEM panel that included:

  • Dr. Wanda Ward, Acting Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation;
  • Dr. Joyce Winterton, Assistant Administrator for Education at NASA;
  • Gay Gilbert, Administrator at the US Department of Labor;
  • Jack Harris, Senior Director of Advanced Technology at Rockwell Collins; and
  • James McMurtray, Executive Director of the National Alliance of State Science and Math Coalitions.

Janice Dunn, Deputy Director of the California Space Authority (CSA), commended the US Department of Labor for its foresight in the creation of the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative, which has delivered federal resources to 39 regions across the country to create a 21st century-ready workforce.

“With funding from the WIRED program, CSA created one of the first statewide public-private STEM strategies known as the STEM Collaborative Action Plan (STEM CAP),” stated Ms. Dunn. “STEM CAP is accompanied by a STEM inventory, which is database of STEM programs and resources that can be accessed by educators across the state. Creation of a national STEM repository would go a long way to coordinate programs and resources at the federal level.”

The Aviation Panel included testimony from:

  • Charles Leader, Director of the Joint Planning and Development Office;
  • John Meenan, President and COO of the Air Transport Association;
  • Peter Bunce, President and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; and
  • Greg Principato, President of the Airports Council International- North America, focused primarily on NextGen air traffic management.

The hearing concluded with testimony from:

  • the Honorable Gary Payton, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs;
  • Dr. Peter Wegner, Director, Operationally Responsive Space Office for the Department of Defense;
  • Dr. Richard O’Toole, Manager, Legislative and International Affairs, Jet Propulsion Laboratory;
  • Larry Williams, Vice President for Strategic Relations at Space Exploration Technologies; and
  • Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Professor at the University of Michigan and representative of the Universities Space Research Association.

The panelists covered national security space, NASA (civil space), commercial space, and again, STEM education.

The panelists agreed on the merits of the CubeSat program as both an educational tool and a platform for military and commercial applications. Concluding the hearing, Mr. Payton issued an appeal to NASA “to have an ‘intoxicating’ space exploration program—human and robotic—that grabs the attention of today’s youth.” He explained that he depends on a robust NASA to inspire his future workforce in military programs.

A key element of the hearing was the passage of resolutions on each hearing topic: STEM education, Aviation, and Space.

Given the new Administration in the White House and on Capitol Hill, ASA called the hearing to inform Washington policy makers about these issues, which are of vital importance to the aerospace industry nationwide. The ASA is a scientific and educational organization comprised of Lt. Governors and Governor-appointed delegates that promotes a state-based perspective in federal aerospace policy development.