NASA Launches Students into STEM

Elizabeth Chapin



Astronauts aboard the International Space Station answer questions from students at Cal State L.A. Feb. 20.

It was an experience for nearly 180 spellbound students at Cal State L.A. that can only be described as “out of this world”—a question and answer session with three astronauts from the International Space Station broadcast live on T.V.

The students were given the extraordinary opportunity to talk to astronauts traveling 17,500 mph at an altitude of 250 miles—NASA enabled a live discussion between the students and astronauts aboard the International Space Station via televised downlink. The event was part of NASA’s Destination Station exhibit, which showcases what it’s like to live aboard the International Space Station.

“The students asked the astronauts excellent questions and learned more about the science being conducted on the station as well as the daily lives of astronauts aboard the station,” said Emily Allen, Dean of CSULA’s College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology. “The astronauts counseled our students to have patience and go after their dreams for as long as it takes to succeed!”

The special event was one of three this February that were the result of a developing partnership between NASA and the CSU. NASA representatives also visited with Cal Poly Pomona students and parents of future students—with the goal to help inspire them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Cal Poly Pomona engineering students were visited by an astronaut Feb. 20 who discussed career opportunities and his own path to working at NASA.

“It was a great honor to have him speak to us,” said Cal Poly Pomona engineering student Daniella Alvarez. “The event gave the students an opportunity to get connections in the industry as they prepare to look for internships and jobs in aerospace.”

A NASA representative also made a special presentation to the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) on Feb. 18 in an effort to enhance a STEM program for parents of future college students.

The CSU has a strong partnership with PIQE to educate parents about effective ways to get involved in their children’s education. Parents in communities near CSU campuses learn about navigating the school system and encouraging college attendance.

“Many children dream of becoming an astronaut when they grow up,” said PIQE Executive Director Maria Elena Meraz. “Dreams of being an astronaut, explorer, inventor or discoverer are achievable, and going to college is the first step to making them a reality.”​