Challenger Center Receives Top AIAA Award

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) honors Challenger Center with their 2009 Foundation Award for Excellence

With more than 31,000 members, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest professional society devoted to the progress of engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. In a critical 2008 AIAA report, “Working Together to Build the Aerospace Workforce of Tomorrow”, AIAA noted that “Methods should be sought to support, expand, and “clone” programs like the Challenger Learning Centers, which have used space as the “spark plug” to motivate STEM education interest in over 5 million children.”

Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee, and Founding Chairman of Challenger Center, will be accepting the award for Challenger Center at the AIAA’s Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala on May 13, 2009. A video showing the impact of Challenger Center’s work at Challenger Learning Centers around the world and across the U.S. will be shown at the awards ceremony.

Challenger Center plays a key role in engaging young Americans in science and technology. Challenger Learning Center programs worldwide continue the space shuttle Challenger 51-L crew’s mission of engaging teachers and students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Over the past 23 years, Challenger’s network of 46 Challenger Learning Centers around the world has reached millions teachers and students. Each year more than 300,000 students fly a simulated space mission at one of the Challenger Learning Centers. Over 35,000 teachers attend professional development workshops.

The changing demographics of our country make it imperative that the science community, NASA and aerospace industry attract diverse youth who will be able to meet the needs of a versatile technical and scientific future workforce. Reports such as AIAA’s 2008 report and others warn that the United States needs to make a greater investment in STEM education if we are to maintain and increase the skilled workforce needed in the 21st century, and that we need programs that connect teachers and students to NASA and give them the opportunity to engage in activities that will cause them to ask questions and think like scientists.

In their 2008 report, AIAA added that aerospace companies should “support, expand, and “clone” successful programs like the Challenger Learning Centers and museums focusing on science, technology, and engineering”.

Challenger Center for Space Science Education is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts tragically lost during the last flight of Challenger Space Shuttle 51-L. Using space exploration as a theme, Challenger Center creates positive experiences that raise students’ expectations of success, foster a long-term interest in science, math, and technology, and inspires them to pursue studies and careers in these areas. To locate a Challenger Learning Center near you, visit www.challenger.org.