Innovation and Education: NASA and Our Youth

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    Conor Cusack, MPA
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    NASA and Fairport High School Partner to Engage the Next Generation of Researchers

    I have been challenged on more than one occasion to identify a program, initiative, or piece of legislation that government “got right the first time”. I am quick to concede that governments, particularly nowadays, are not considered by some as bastions of efficiency. However, when this story broke here in Monroe County, New York, I quickly deemed it an indisputable example of a local and federal agency doing something very right for the first time.

    To quote the article, “Four Fairport High School science teachers – Elizabeth Burns, Gene Gordon, Donna Himmelberg, Andrew Johnson – and Technology Teacher Chris Stahl – submitted a proposal for FHS to participate in the HUNCH program”. (Hunch stands for High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware). “Although there are approximately 40-50 HUNCH schools, there are only 12 schools in the HUNCH Extreme Science Program. Currently, FHS is the only school in New York State in the HUNCH Extreme Science Program. Students will create an experiment by fabricating real-world products for NASA as they apply their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills as well as learning to work in teams and think creatively”.

    I’ll be the first to admit there are flaws in our public education system – unfunded mandates, overcrowded classrooms, and unrealistic learning standards for too many students. Yet, a partnership like the one between Fairport High School and NASA will help to restore my level of confidence in our public education system when I see this level of collaborative spirit, creative ingenuity, and willingness to go beyond the norm or what is expected.

    It is precisely this level of will, creativity, and collaboration that school districts, neighborhoods, elected officials, and our country should pursue now more than ever. After all, should it surprise us that NASA stepped up for our young people, even when it’s budget is being cut? NASA played a pivotal role in Neil Armstong’s walk on the moon, something I’ve pondered about repeatedly during each consecutive day of government shutdown.

    For the Fairport/NASA partnership to form and grow, several contributing factors came into play. Initiative, determination, and the will to execute a vision and take learning far beyond the confines of a traditional classroom. As local media outlets air the story, http://rochester.ynn.com/content/search/697612/fairport-high-school-science-projects-heading-to-space/, and http://fairport-eastrochester-perinton.whec.com/news/schools/220351-fairport-high-school-students-team-nasa, I can only hope that other educators and elected officials will display similar extraordinary efforts and determination to take our young people where they have never gone before.

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