Carie Lemack: From STEM to Stern- A New Era for Space-Based Research aboard the International Space Station

by STEMconnector

This is an Op-Ed from Carie Lemack, the Cofounder and CEO of DreamUp, an educational company bringing space into classrooms and classrooms into space.  A former national security policy expert/advocate and producer of an Academy Award-Nominated film, Carie is a proud alumni of Space Camp and supporter of all space cadets reaching for the stars.  

If STEM is to be more than a thin and fragile stem of education, we must emphasize the importance of this subject and the urgency of learning this discipline. That means we need students and workers – from children and teachers to doctors and lawyers – to be, at a minimum, conversant in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If STEM is to flourish, it must first flower in classrooms nationwide: It must win the hearts and minds of the public by directing their attention from the earth to the heavens. We must highlight the value of space-based research.

In fact, we are in the midst of a new Space Age. We have a renaissance among students, who send their experiments into space, by having rockets deliver these payloads to the International Space Station for review and testing.

With more than 350 such experiments to our credit, now is the time to double or triple that number because of the many ways space-based research has influenced – and will continue to influence – STEM-related projects and jobs.

Reports from NASA, in addition to a call for advancing STEM education from Lockheed Martin, speak to the essence nature of this mission.

That means schools need a customized curriculum, one that complements the alignment of the Digital Age with the Space Age; not one that is a product of the Industrial Revolution, when the real revolution unfolds before us: A rapid switch to STEM-centric ideas and applications, including nanoscience, personalized medicine, artificial intelligence and robotics.

That curriculum must be interactive – it must also have a multimedia presentation for teachers – so students can embrace the benefits of STEM, so they can engage this subject in a more direct (and dynamic) way than any textbook alone can offer or any conventional lesson plan can match.

By giving students a stake in the outcome of their individual experiments, by democratizing space-based research for the good of these young men and women, by enabling them to see for themselves that scientific fact is often more exciting than watching a movie of science fiction, by translating theory into practice –– by doing all of these things, we can teach students a new language.

That language is STEM, which is as relevant to a banker as it is to a biologist, because both professionals must analyze data (albeit in different ways, for different purposes). Both must have a measure of fluency in one, some or all of these four categories, because command of that language will affect the growth of our economy and the competitive edge of our top colleges and universities.

Now is the time to begin the countdown for a new Space Age, which promotes the rewards of STEM.

Now is the time to make space-based research an indispensable part of public policy, economics, education and employment.

We can accomplish this goal.

We can increase interest and funding for STEM.

Now is the time for liftoff.