Tasmyn Front, Executive Director, Challenger Learning Center – St. Louis, was elected to Challenger Center’s National Board of Directors in 2018. Tasmyn brings over 20 years of administration experience in informal science education to the board. At the Center, Tasmyn leads a team of dedicated educators to develop and facilitate award-winning programs.
How did you become involved with your Challenger Learning Center?
I was hired as the director of the Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis in December 2002 after moving to St. Louis from the Bay Area with my husband. Through my connections with the Saint Louis Science Center, I was made aware of the opportunity to apply for the position and was hired on to run the Center.
At your Center, what do you see from students when they take part in a Mission or one of your other STEM programs?
I see great joy and excitement when students accomplish their mission goal after overcoming initial uncertainty or confusion about how to perform their job. My office window looks out into the area where students launch rockets as part of a rocket design challenge workshop and it never gets old watching them cheer and run to see how far their rocket went. They gain confidence in learning they are capable of doing science and engineering activities and some gain an interest in STEM that they did not have before visiting a Challenger Learning Center.
What do you believe differentiates Challenger Center from other STEM education organizations?
The immersive environment that puts students in roles similar to scientists, astronauts, and engineers allows students to see themselves being successful in those roles. The way the missions run, with students being in charge of their own learning, allows them to discover their interests and look for future opportunities to continue that learning.
Your Center has inspired thousands of students, what is your favorite student success story?
A few months ago, there was a student on the Probe team in Mission Control who was very hesitant to put on the headset and give directions to her counterpart in the Spacecraft. I tried to encourage her partner to let her have a turn at giving the instructions, and even with her partner’s attempt to have her take the lead, she was still not interested in taking part in that role. She followed along with what was going on but did not engage much otherwise. Towards the end of the first half of the mission, something clicked and she started to understand what was going on. By the time she was willing to give the instructions on how to assemble the probe, the spacecraft experienced a micro-meteoroid shower and had to return to Earth. During the start of the 2nd half when we went to the Spacecraft and she entered the clean room, her eyes lit up and she quickly reached for the headset and transformed into a different person than what I saw when she was in Mission Control.
Why did you want to be a part of the Challenger Center’s national board of Directors?
It is a great honor to be part of a board that includes so many highly respected and accomplished leaders who are committed to the mission of Challenger Center.
What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?
I hope I can effectively communicate the interests, needs, and views of the Challenger Learning Center Network and include those elements as the board develops strategies that will help us all grow and be successful.
In your opinion, why is STEM education important?
There is a growing number of yet-to-be-known STEM-based jobs, which is outpacing the number of people who are interested and capable of entering into those fields. In order to stay competitive on a global scale and to help our future generation be successful, we must find ways to engage and sustain young people’s interest and abilities in STEM.
Why should women pursue a career in STEM?
It is critical that not just women, but a diverse pool of people become engaged in STEM careers. The more diverse the STEM field is, the more creativity and innovation will be a part of solving challenges and advancing our collective efforts to make the world a better place.
In your opinion, what can we do as a society to inspire young girls into STEM?
By creating more role models, mentors, and programs that are specifically designed to engage girls in STEM (for example, our Challenger Learning Center in St. Louis is creating a summer camp session just for girls), I believe we can increase the number of young girls entering into those fields.
Why should people support Challenger Center?
People should support Challenger Center, so we can continue to develop relevant and engaging content that will inspire the future generation of innovators.