Name: Michael Brown

School/Degree: Currently majoring in Business and Communication at Texas Christian University (Class of 2020)

Occupation: Seaplane Pilot

Which Challenger Learning Center did you visit?

I visited the Challenger Learning Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

When did you visit a Challenger Learning Center?

I attended multiple summer space camps from ages 7-10.

What do you remember most from your experience?

I loved the space simulation situations! I still remember vividly pretending to have a role in mission control. I really enjoyed solving the problems that were generated for us.

Have you always been interested in STEM?

I grew up fascinated with the stories of people like Lindbergh, Armstrong, and Glenn. I wanted to be just like them. Once I was old enough, I did my research and found a local flight school that would help me earn my pilot’s license. It didn’t matter that I was not a math or engineering major. I had a passion for it and made up my mind to find a way to achieve it.

Did the visit to the Challenger Learning Center affect your decision to pursue a STEM degree or career? If yes, how? 

Absolutely! Thanks to the Challenger Center I first heard about stories of amazing space heroes and learned that most of them were not too different from me.

In your opinion, why is STEM education so critical at a young age?

Sadly, growing up kids are put often put into little boxes that can limit their potential. We tell ourselves “I’m a math person” or “I’m a better history student” and we grow up thinking that we shouldn’t challenge ourselves in certain fields because “I just wasn’t born to be good at that subject.” The best thing we can teach young people is to never believe there is a limit on how much they can learn or achieve.

What advice would you give to students who want to pursue STEM degrees or careers?

I would tell them to challenge themselves to become well-rounded individuals. I learned quickly that nobody cares how much you know about the solar system if you can’t communicate it properly and build relationships that make people want to know more.

In one sentence, how would you describe your experience at the Challenger Learning Center?

A visit to a Challenger Learning Center is the best way to discover a passion for space exploration.

Why should people support Challenger Learning Center’s STEM programs?

Challenger Learning Centers inspire kids to dream big. To me, the adventures of people like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Dick Scobee were so far away, without the Challenger Center, I would have never believed that a kid from Chattanooga could be anything like them.