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Thanks to NASA Link, Connecticut Students Envision Tomorrow at State of STEM Talk

A small group of teachers and students post together for a group photo.
A group from Stamford High School in Connecticut attended the 13 Jan. State of STEM Address in Washington, D.C. Pictured, left to right, are Stamford High teacher Kristen Amon with students Matthew Bagan, Christopher Aranda, James Zhan, teacher Sue Dougherty and student Jostin Colon. Credit: Courtesy of Sue Dougherty

A group of students and teachers from a Connecticut high school with a connection to NASA took a deep dive into the world of science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM-- during a recent event in Washington, D.C.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted the 13 January State of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Address, playing off the president’s State of the Union address. [Go here to watch video of the STEM event.]

It included displays on tech topics as well as face time with a group of high-caliber experts. About 140 students from across the nation heard from STEM standouts including Mark Davis, a former NBA player who now owns a solar energy company; former astronaut Alvin Drew; and Megan Smith, the nation’s chief technology officer.

“It was a really wonderful event,” said Matthew Bagan, a 17-year senior at Stamford High School who attended with three classmates. The event took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Bagan said he particularly enjoyed a live video chat with scientists doing research at the South Pole. “This is not something you do every day and I’m absolutely loving it right now. And this opportunity is all thanks to NASA.”

The group from Stamford High was invited through a connection with teacher Sue Dougherty and her participation in a NASA-led program called GLOBE, short for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment.

The Stamford math and science teacher was introduced to GLOBE through NASA’s LEARN program which gives teachers the chance to do research and training with NASA scientists and share their knowledge with students.  LEARN stands for Long-term Engagement in Authentic Research with NASA.

Dougherty traveled to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to work with researcher Margaret Pippin. With guidance from Pippin, Dougherty conducted two projects between 2013 and 2015, one exploring a possible correlation between ozone concentration in the atmosphere and autism birth rates, the other on polar ice variability. All of the LEARN teachers were trained in the GLOBE program, which engages students and teachers around the world in collecting valid scientific data on Earth and our environment.

“Margaret taught me how real scientists do research,” said Dougherty, who also attended the State of STEM event. “And with the second project, I included my students to show them how scientists really operate.”

She said the fact that students and teachers from Stamford High were part of such a high-profile conference caused positive ripple effects back home.

“The faculty and students are so proud,” she said. “It’s given the school a new energy.”

Written by: Sam McDonald, NASA Langley Research Center

(Editor's Note: You can access the original article, here.)