Name: John C. Hood II
Current Title: Ph.D. Student, Vanderbilt University
Education: B.S Astrophysics and Planetary Geology with minors in Physics, Geology and Robotics Certification, Columbus State University. M.A Physics, Fisk University. Ph.D. Astrophysics Vanderbilt University (in progress).

Which of our Challenger Learning Centers did you visit? The Challenger Learning Center at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, GA.

When did you visit a Challenger Learning Center?  My first visit to the Challenger Learning Center was on a sixth-grade field trip.

What do you remember most from your experience? My most memorable moment from my visit was working in the Space Station and discovering that there was an imminent meteor shower detected by my noticing multiple holes in a sample of the stations shielding. This led to a cascade of events that taught our class how to function better as a team to keep the station operational. It was so much fun working together to save the crew.

Have you always been interested in STEM? Yes, I remember getting in trouble as a kid for randomly taking things apart because I was curious about how they worked. Most of the time they still worked when I put them back together. This combined with my love of all things space helped to motivate and push me to where I am now.

Did the visit to the Challenger Learning Center affect your decision to pursue a STEM degree or career? If yes, how? Yes, The Challenger Learning Center Mission lead by the CCSSC team was the first time I ever felt like being an astronaut, engineer or anything space related was something that I could actually do. This feeling then began to fuel my passion for astronomy and engineering.

Why is STEM education so critical at a young age? I believe that engaging children to pursue STEM fields at a young age can seed interests that can develop into passions that they will enjoy pursuing later in life.

What advice would you give to students who want to pursue STEM degrees or careers? Always remember to follow your own path and seek out opportunities to learn something new. While the destination may be the same, like a position in a national lab or industry, we all have to follow our own path to reach our goals.

In one sentence, how would you describe your Challenger Learning Center experience?Probably the most fun STEM-based team building exercise for groups of all ages!

Why should people support Challenger Learning Center’s STEM programs? The Challenger Learning Centers offer a unique opportunity for the public to get a small taste of what it’s like to be an astronaut via a fun and engaging Missions. In doing this, the centers have a unique capability of reaching younger audiences and sparking an interest in STEM-related activities and education.

Meet Other Challenger Center Alumni