Seven months after the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster approaches, Framingham’s Christa McAuliffe Center will host the ship’s namesake conference to discuss how space exploration can further education.
The conference creator, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, touts itself as a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) organization that “uses students’ natural enthusiasm for space to create innovative learning experiences.”
“This year marks 30 years since we lost the Challenger crew, so to host the Annual Conference at Framingham State University, Christa McAuliffe’s alma mater, is incredibly special,” said Dr. Lance Bush, president and CEO of the Challenger Center, in a press release. “We look forward to our time in Framingham and are incredibly grateful to Framingham State University for opening their doors to the Challenger Center network.”
The Christa McAuliffe Center was established in 1994 to carry on the legacy of Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, a Framingham State graduate, who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986. It will be the first time in the conference’s history that the event is held at the center.
The conference brings together 42 Challenger Learning Centers from across the country in a discussion about STEM education and future space exploration.
Director of the McAuliffe Center, Dr. Irene Porro, believes there is a special significance of hosting the conference this year.
“There’s a … connection to Christa and for me it’s a way to show that we keep carrying on the legacy and integrating it into the way we work in the 21st century,” Porro said.
The last day of the conference, Thursday, Aug. 11, the center will be opened up to the public for a day of programming, called STEM Education Through the Lens of Space Exploration.
The event starts with panel discussion on space exploration led by Frank White, author of “The Overview Effect – Space Exploration and Human Evolution.” He is joined by Erica Jawin a PhD candidate at Brown studying Planetary Science, Senior Food Technologist at Natick NSRDEC Michelle Richardson and Framingham State Education Professor Dr. Kelly Kolodny.
“We know from astronauts that when they go to space and look back at Earth, they have this very different view of the planet. They see the planet as one,” Porro said about the Overview Effect. “People go to space with the idea to look outward, but the first thing astronauts do in space is to want to look back to Earth. We want to use this panel discussion to ask how we can use this concept in our education context to really introduce it into collaboration with different skills and different backgrounds.”
There will be another panel discussion later in the day with three people in the STEM industry, on the future of space exploration and its impact on STEM education. The panel will include: Gregory H. Johnson, president and Executive Director of Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), Ryan Mudawar, Manager of Academic and Workforce Programs at Massachusetts Life Sciences Centers and Steve Vinter, Engineering Director at Google in Cambridge.
“We want to hear from their perspective how they connect the work they do with the need to develop an educated STEM workforce, but also in general help us create citizens that understand the value of the space enterprise,” Porro said. “We want to reflect on how we use the work we do in space to benefit people on Earth.”
Also planned for the day is a conversation with Arthur Eisenkraft, a Professor of Physics at UMass Boston, about how sports could be played on the moon, as well as tours of the Challenger Learning Center, virtual tours of the International Space Station and planetarium shows at the end of the day.
Porro realizes the importance the role of STEM education and space exploration in society and hopes these events spotlight that importance.
“It’s become a little cliché, but it’s true that science, technology and engineering are a part of our lives even if we don’t think about that,” Porro said. “Moving forward, it’s really an opportunity for us to really start thinking about the new needs when you think about the STEM industry, but also about the society to look at STEM from a different point of view.”
“It’s not only what space exploration can do for us, but also how we should approach it. It requires a lot of resources and I think this conference can be one of those moments where we reflect on space exploration and to think about how we do it, why we do it and what is the best way to do it, so people can know the benefits of it,” she added.
“I only read about Christa and never met her, but just by reading about her and meeting some of her family members, I really have a sense that she would want us to look at the future,” Porro said. “I can feel that she’s like this is what I would want to do, to project toward the future, so that’s what I think this conference will really be about.”
The Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State University will host the event from Aug. 8-11. General registration is $60. For more information, or to register, visit christa.org/clcconference/.
Source: MetroWest Daily News[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]