What’s the best way to attract more young people to STEM fields? Research points to the critical importance of starting early.
To help convey the excitement and potential of STEM to middle and high school students, Capitol Technology University is partnering with a Maryland non-profit, Science Engineering Partnership (SEP), to launch a new program dubbed AE Saturdays, starting in spring 2019.
AE stands for “astronautical engineering” – one of the flagship degree programs at Capitol. The Laurel-based university is home to a Space Flight Operations Training Center (SFOTC) that provides real-time training for aspiring space flight operators and engineers – by means of the same simulation equipment used for training at NASA.
The SFOTC is home to a Galaxy Telemetry and Command system, used on over 100 US missions and international payloads, as well as a Virtual Spacecraft Dynamics Simulator (VSAT). Both have been made available to the university by The Hammers Company.
"We'll be providing students with the chance to get hands-on practice in controlling a spacecraft, through our resources at the SFOTC," said Professor Angela Walters, the university's chair of astronautical engineering.
“Through the AE Saturdays program, young people will come to the SFOTC and we’ll teach them about about the world of space flight ops – what NASA does, and how mission control commands a spacecraft. They’ll get hands-on experience with simulated launch and deployment maneuvers,” says engineer Marcel Mabson, who teaches at Capitol and helps direct the training center.
Participants will also get to design and build a payload, which will then be launched via balloon from the Capitol campus. In addition, they’ll be introduced to the university’s Fusion Lab – a maker space that brings together students from different STEM disciplines – and participate in team projects designed to boost a range of STEM skills. Throughout the program, participants will be mentored by Capitol students.
It will be a stimulating, exciting lineup of activities, Mabson says – one designed to fire up young imaginations. While the initial AE Saturdays will be for juniors and seniors, the plan is to then open up the event to sophomores and freshmen as well.
“The goal is to get students involved early enough so that when they graduate, they will want to study and work in STEM fields,” Mabson said.
The university and Science Engineering Partnership will officially set the program in motion on Thursday (October 11), with a signing ceremony on the Capitol campus.
Walters, the AE chair, said it's an exciting new venture for the program at Capitol -- and one that will benefit the field as a whole.
"This partnership is all about introducing local high school and middle school students to STEM careers via a simulated spacecraft operations environment," says Walters. "As department chair, I am excited about bringing the SFOTC experience to students outside the traditional classroom environment."
For more information about AE Saturdays, the AE program at Capitol, or the SFOTC, contact the communications department at marketing (@) captechu.edu or phone 301-369-2800.