Space Industry Access to a Highly Skilled Workforce
Paul Kiesling, Maya Mohanty, Shawna L. Christenson, Kevin L. Simmons
Since the late 1950’s the industries supporting the exploration and utilization of space have become well known. Humans have walked on the moon, distant worlds have been explored by orbiting spacecraft and rovers, and above Earth satellites connect people globally as never before.
Today as the US and the world are looking with renewed interest to explore, colonize, and eventually capitalize space, the educational pipeline must be reinforced in order to meet the ever-growing demand.
In the United States, young students may have a spark of interest to pursue a career in aerospace; however, that interest often fades due to the lack of hands-on STEM education exposure as they enter high school. Additionally, the increased exposure to other subjects encourages students with highly prized STEM skills to pursue careers in other fields.
Through the Wolverine CubeSat Development Team (WCDT), students have a strong STEM education program and a hands-on, real-world exposure to aerospace science. As part of their contribution to the growth of the space industry, WCDT students work towards preparing themselves for STEM careers.
The WCDT began in August of 2015 as an after-school club and activity with the ultimate aim of deploying a CubeSat into space within three years.
In December of 2018, the WCDT successfully launched WeissSat-1, a 1U CubeSat selected in the 24th round of NASA’s ELaNa Program and the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).
WeissSat-1 made history as the first CubeSat to be built, tested, and launched by middle school students. Students of the WCDT are also active members of the Aerospace Public Policy Institute (APPI) where they work to expand hands-on STEM education with a focus on aerospace policy in the United States.
In the U.S. Congress, House Resolution 85 (H.Con.Res.85), or Wolverine CubeSats in Education, was originally developed by the students in conjunction with Congressman Brian Mast. It was introduced with the aim to increase public awareness of the educational benefits of the CSLI and to prioritize its funding in the annual budget.
This initiative is currently in progress and is in the process of gaining bipartisan support from states who have experience with CubeSats in educational settings. This legislation is an extension of H. Con. Res 109, the “WeissSat-1 Resolution,” introduced in 2018.
In addition to advocating for national aerospace policy, students continue to work at the state level to increase the available funding for experiential Title 1 teacher STEM training in Florida.
Through this integrated partnership with Title 1 public schools, and through attending legislative blitzes, students raise awareness and propose solutions for the aforementioned weakening STEM pipeline with the goal of producing a more inspired and supported workforce for the future of the aerospace industry, particularly in these students’ home state.
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