NASA astronaut teaches kids technology and engineering through Clemson program

The students squeal delightfully, clapping their hands at their success, as their Styrofoam sailboat with its construction paper sail traverses the white gutter in less than the required 15 seconds. With guidance from NASA astronaut Col. Patrick Forrester, the Clemson Elementary second-grade class participates in the Integrative STEM Education program.

Clemson University is promoting the Integrative STEM Education program to improve science, technology, engineering and math learning in South Carolina.

Forrester is an adjunct faculty member in Clemson’s College of Health, Education and Human Development. He brings a different perspective to the world of education. In his NASA career he made four spacewalks and coordinated five spacewalks for other astronauts. He is retired from the Army. 

“What I bring to the table is a unique background and experience,” Forrester said.

“Forrester is bringing NASA education programs, such as classroom teaching materials to area school districts," said Bill Havice, associate dean and professor in Clemson's College of Health, Education and Human Development. "Since beginning in July, Forrester has made numerous presentations to various audiences, including K-16 students, administrators, parents, business and industry leaders. He is spending his time on and off campus interacting with people interested in scientific and technological literacy for all children.” 

Forrester makes frequent visits to many area schools, including Clemson Elementary. After educating the children about the general purposes of the different parts of sailboats, the children create one using the technical terms they learned. They have a budget to buy materials with fake dimes and nickels.

“The importance of the program is to encourage the children to ask, ‘why?’ or ‘why does it matter?'“ Forrester said.

In other words, Forrester wants the children to understand the importance of what they are learning and how this knowledge will serve them in the future.

The goals of the program are to teach children problem-solving. After all, the lesson is about trial and error.   

“When the children try something that doesn’t work they have to fill out their journal. It asks, ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘how will you fix it?’” he said. “That way, it incorporates writing into their learning as well.”

The program includes projects in the fifth- and eighth-grade sciences.

For more information on the Integrative STEM Education program visit


CrossRoads Middle Recognized for Innovative STEM Program

CrossRoads Middle School was recently recognized for its S.T.E.M. Exploratory class by the South Carolina Association for Educational Technology (SCAET).

The school received the SCAET Innovative Programs Award at the annual S.C. Educational Technology Conference held in Greenville.

The S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Exploratory class focuses on a variety of technology such as mobile application development, robotics, game development, and more.

S.T.E.M teacher Dr. Chris Craft said, “I am thankful for the opportunity to work in a school and district with visionary leaders that support S.T.E.M. education and with students who are eager to explore new technologies.” 

The course is designed to support the district’s S.T.E.M. initiative. The course is entirely project-based and involves experts from around the world as mentors. Students have reached out to successful application developers, game developers, and robotics engineers. These experts have played a large part in helping students gain knowledge of these topics as well as inspiration for a possible future in a S.T.E.M. field.

CrossRoads Middle Principal Jess Hutchinson said, “I am so pleased to see the success that S.T.E.M.-based instruction has seen at CRMS. We are so fortunate to have teachers like Chris Craft, who promote S.T.E.M. education and inspire our young learners to embrace technology.”

The SCAET Innovative Programs Award was established to honor innovative uses of technology in education.  



USC gets $5 million for McNair aerospace center

A $5 million gift from a Charleston businesswoman will help air and space education in the state and puts an internationally recognized scientist at the helm of the University of South Carolina aerospace research center, the college's president announced Thursday.

Anita Zucker's donation establishes the Zucker Institute for Aerospace Innovation at the center named for Ronald McNair, the Lake City native and astronaut who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion of 1986, said university President Harris Pastides.

The McNair Center was established last year whenr USC benefactor, former trustee and Lake City native Darla Moore provided a $5 million pledge toward its creation.

Zucker is the CEO of the InterTech Group, founded by her husband Jerry. The scientist and inventor was a self-made billionaire who died of cancer in 2008. The couple has given millions to a wide range of charities and educational endeavors over the years.

Pastides announced that Dr. Zafer Gurdal of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will direct the center and hold a new professorship dedicated to aerospace education.

"Anita's generosity and shared vision that South Carolina can advance the future of air and space flight has enabled us to recruit a world-renowned expert to lead our efforts," Pastides said.

He described Gurdal as having "a rare combination of native intelligence, common sense, curiosity and interest in research" and being is a leader who is a "brilliant addition" to the university's team of scientists.

Gurdal is a native of Turkey. Prior to his work in the Netherlands, he spent nearly 20 years on the faculty of Virginia Tech and built an internationally recognized research program with an expertise in designing and optimizing composite materials. His work in the Netherlands focused on aligning its aerospace program with what students needed to succeed in academia and industry, the university said in a statement.

Pastides also announced two new online master's degree programs that will be offered through the center. One will be the state's first master's degree in aerospace engineering, the university said.

In a statement, Moore said she was excited by the announcements.

"These are great first steps in building the Ron McNair Center into a permanent, world-class aerospace research and catalytic center for nurturing, growing and supporting the aerospace cluster in South Carolina," Moore said in the statement.

South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the development helps make aerospace manufacturing a growing industry in the state.

"Add to that a rich research and innovation climate with programs like the one the University of South Carolina is launching at the McNair Center, and you have the perfect formula for success," Hitt said.

In June, Clemson University announced that a Zucker Family Graduate Education Center was being built in North Charleston with a $5 million gift from the family. The center supports students, faculty and representatives of business while they use research developed at the institute and adapt it to the marketplace.




STEM-based charter serves as model in S.C.

The beauty of charter schools is the freedom for teachers and administrators to be more creative with the programs and curriculum they implement. Officials with the new Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) in Pickens, S.C., hope the STEM-based program they’ve set up for sixth and seventh graders will serve as a model for other charter middle schools in the state in coming years.

Pitsco Education math and science curricula give YLA students hands-on experiences through standards-based content. YLA Principal Patsy Wood Smith says the curriculum choice was easy when they saw what students would get in the Pitsco labs.

“When we started to study the Pitsco curriculum, it was like, if the Youth Leadership Academy could dream of a curriculum that pulled together the standards, the hands-on, the independent learning, the teamwork – all of the things we have said we feel are so important – it’s the Pitsco curriculum. It’s the perfect marriage,” Smith said.

As an alternative to other public schools, the YLA aims to give its current 48 students a unique educational experience steeped in STEM. Even the English Language Arts, social sciences, arts, music, and physical education courses will include engaging, hands-on, team-based approaches that integrate STEM concepts.

“Our academic focus is STEM. We want students to be well grounded in STEM curriculum,” Smith said. “We want them to understand that there are so many careers in the STEM area, and we want them to start at the middle school level, discovering what it takes to get into college.”

Eighth grade will be added in the 2013-14 school year, pushing enrollment to 72 at the school that has a waiting list of students whose parents want them to focus on STEM education in a small, more personal school setting.

Smith hopes this first YLA is only the beginning. “Our charter application allows us to replicate our school across the state.” The YLA was developed through the Youth Learning Institute at Clemson University. YLI is focused on innovative experiential approaches through which students develop 21st-century skills such as communication, problem solving, and cooperative learning. Part of this process is to shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student.

The student-centered Pitsco Education curriculum at the YLA includes:
o Sixth grade – Signature Math (Individualized Prescriptive Lessons [IPLs] and Culminating Group Activities [CGAs]); Life Science (team-based, hands-on exploration of key topics and whole-class blended science activities)
o Seventh grade – Algebra Readiness (IPLs, CGAs, and team-based, hands-on exploration of key topics); Physical Science (team-based, hands-on exploration of key topics and whole-class blended science activities)

To learn more about the YLA, visit To learn more about Pitsco Education Math and Science, visit



NASA Selects Teachers To Fly Student Experiments In Reduced Gravity Aircraft

Teachers from six NASA Explorer Schools (NES) have been selected to receive the 2012 School Recognition Award for their contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

The teachers selected are from Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Glendale, Calif.; Franke Park Elementary School, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Mountview Road School, Morris Plains, N.J.; Corpus Christi Catholic School, Chambersburg, Pa.; Fairport High School, Fairport N.Y.; and Forest Lake Elementary Technology Magnet School, Columbia, S.C.

In April 2013, three teachers from each school will travel to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. There they will have the opportunity to fly aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft and conduct experiments designed by their students. The experiments will examine the acceleration and inertia of objects, how fluids with different viscosities behave in microgravity, and how the absence of gravity affects mass and weight.

"Congratulations to the NES teachers selected for this innovative NASA experience. The reduced gravity flights allow teachers to conduct scientific investigations in a microgravity environment, similar to how experiments are conducted on the International Space Station," said Cecelia Fletcher, acting program manager for primary and secondary education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This experiential learning opportunity helps to spread the excitement of STEM education with teachers and students throughout the NASA Explorer School network."

A team of NASA personnel reviewed many applications before selecting these six schools for their exemplary classroom practices and innovative uses of NES resources to engage a broad school population. These schools were chosen from more than 470 schools that are registered participants in the NASA Explorer Schools project.

The NASA Explorer Schools project is the classroom-based gateway for students in grades 4-12 that focuses on stimulating STEM education using agency content and themes.

For more information about the Explorer Schools Project, visit:

To watch a four-minute video that provides project information and shows previous winners aboard the reduced gravity aircraft, visit:

For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:



Governor's School for Science and Mathematics Receives Funding from Verizon to Expand iTEAMS Summer Camp

Read more here:
The Verizon Foundationrecently awarded the South Carolina Governor'sSchool for Science and Mathematics (GSSM) $10,000 to support the School's summer camp experience, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Among Middle Schoolers (iTEAMS). Serving rising 8th and 9th graders in select S.C. counties, iTEAMS offers middle and high school students unmatched opportunities for fun and interactive technology-based learning.
The camp features a team project that allows students to design apps for mobile devices. Other camp components include creating video games and learning the ins and outs of cyber security. Along with its support of iTEAMS, the Verizon Foundation also offers GSSM resources, an award-winning educational website offering free, engaging resources for teachers and students.
"We are grateful to the Verizon Foundation," said Dr. Murray Brockman, GSSM President. "This grant allows us to expand our iTEAMS program, provide more opportunities for young students to explore interests in STEM subjects, and offer enriching learning experiences featuring mobile technology."
GSSM is a public, residential high school for academically motivated 11th and 12th graders from across South Carolina. The School launched iTEAMS in June 2009 in an effort to extend its reach to more Palmetto State students, exposing them to novel opportunities. iTEAMS teaches students skills in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship through a hands-on, team-based curriculum. The four-day camp includes a mentor program and provides students with career exploration opportunities through comprehensive technology discussions.
"We're proud to support this program as it builds long-term value for our community," said, Jerry Fountain, regional president of Verizon Wireless.  "Mobile technology is especially engaging to students.  If used consistently, it can increase student success and interest in STEM subjects."

Read more here:



Boeing invests $750K in STEM education


The Boeing Co. is supporting science, technology, engineering and math education research with a $750,000 challenge grant over a three-year period.

The S.C. Coalition for Mathematics and Science at Clemson University started a research and innovation program called, “Inquiring Minds: Reading to Learn and Innovate in Mathematics and Science.”

This program aims to identify reading, writing and communication strategies that make science and mathematics more accessible to middle school students. Boeing’s challenge grant will fund research at 10 middle school sites still to be determined. It will also engage communities in support of STEM education.

Tom Peters, the coalition’s executive director, said reading needs to be a focus, too, because the state assessment results show a strong correlation between students’ difficulties with reading informational texts and failure to meet standards in mathematics and science.

“Reading to learn is just as critical as learning to read, especially when it comes to STEM education,” Peters said. “We need to tap into the learning potential of all children.”

Walt Tobin, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College president and a coalition advisory board member, said there are a significant number of students entering two-year colleges who require reading skills improvements.

“A study of disciplinary literacy will help identify ways to remediate faster and more effectively with students who struggle with the technical nature of the programs and courses offered at the two-year level,” Tobin said.

The coalition is looking for more partners to join or fund the challenge.

Inquiring Minds middle schools will be selected from applicants that meet specific criteria. S2TEM Centers SC, a statewide network of STEM education support specialists, will provide ongoing, on-site support to participating teachers.

Contact Peters at 864-656-1863 or here for more information. 



Boeing gives $129,000 grant to Education Foundation
Published Tuesday, May 03, 2011 11:41 AM
Berkeley Independent

The Education Foundation has received a $129,000 grant from The Boeing Company to develop and implement a plan for aligning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties with workforce needs. 

The ultimate goal of the “STEM in the Workplace” initiative is to ensure a pipeline of graduates who are equipped with knowledge and skills that match our region’s economic needs.  ??

The Boeing funds will allow The Education Foundation to provide professional development for teachers of STEM disciplines in three ways:  teachers will gain on-site experience in STEM-related businesses, participate in teaching institutes that focus on project-based learning, and implement new methods for teaching STEM to their students.    ??

The growing need for STEM education is largely due to the rapid growth of STEM-related industries globally in recent years. Because STEM industries like Boeing are expanding worldwide, it is crucial to educate students in these fields to provide companies with a competitive workforce.

By doing “externships” in the region’s businesses, teachers will see STEM in action, learn first-hand about workplace requirements and simultaneously gain a wealth of ideas for student projects. 

The practical business experience will be followed by training in project-based learning. The core idea behind project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and stimulate critical thinking and teamwork as the students apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context.  

The STEM in the Workplace initiative will give the 60 participating teachers a new arsenal of project-based teaching strategies aimed at preparing students for entry-level jobs that are becoming more and more sophisticated.

David Ramey is chairman of The Education Foundation.

“Most teachers go directly from their own education into teaching,” he said. “This program gives teachers a chance to see and work within the business world and then translate those experiences into ‘real world’ learning experiences for students.”

There are multiple exit points for students in STEM-related fields, so whether a student wants to continue their studies in college or enter the workforce directly after graduating high school, there are opportunities for them to pursue their goals and interests in STEM. In addition, STEM education increases employability for students and reduces training time and cost for employers. 

STEM in the Workplace is guided by a steering committee made up of business and education leaders. The committee is currently engaging the support of STEM-related businesses who will offer two-day externships to teachers in the summer of 2011.  Businesses interested in participating should contact Angie Rylands, The Education Foundation’s Regional STEM Coordinator, at


I applaud  President Obama and Secretary Duncan for their public support of Career and Technical Education. However, the funding reduction reflects the failure to follow through with their public stance. As we all know who have been around CTE for the past 20 years that the CTE community has had to wage battles every year  to maintain flat level funding for Perkins. We have been supported by visionary comgressional leaders. Some will argue that there have to be cuts, but cutting the pipeline for future workers to restart the economy seems to be chasing "fools gold". The Harvard study, titled Pathways to Prosperity, addresses the desperate need for a new generation of workers that are not necessarily four year college graduates. Although the Harvard publication addresses the "college for all" mentality, most educators and parents cannot bring themselves to think otherwise. I would agree that there is little difference, or any at all, between being college and career ready. The question is whether the future high school and college graduates will be prepared for the global workforce and contribute to the prosperity of the next generation. Cutting Perkins $160,000,000 is not the answer.

Bob Couch, Director

Career and Technical Education

South Carolina