The Kids Are Alright
I haven’t had a chance to post much lately. There’s been a lot going on, and Thanksgiving happened, of course. I wanted to post something about students, though, since they’ve obviously been on my mind even if I haven’t had them in my life as often as I’m used to.
I follow our schools’ student leadership instagram, so I can keep track of how things are going back home. I’ve seen a few of my students doing announcements, and marveled that they are looking older and more mature. It’s been a connection to where I came from that I didn’t anticipate I would enjoy quite so much.
I’ve also had the chance to interact with students and teachers in this area over the past few weeks. One was at the Leesburg Aeronautics Expo in Leesburg, Virginia, where I represented NASA and talked to high school kids who are planning on going into careers in Aeronautics. It was a fun event, and it was encouraging to see so many students who are committed to STEM careers.
Another one was a visit to Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, which is considered the best public school in the United States. It was pretty impressive, with an embarrassment of riches in terms of facilities, equipment, and staff. Students apply in the thousands each year for a spot in the freshman class of 400-500. We visited a few classrooms, used CAD software to place a design on a chair that was cut out with a laser cutter, and saw an impromptu dance performance from a group practicing in the hall.
The last experience was a chance to be a judge at a FIRST Lego League event at a STEM-focused high school in The District. It is a magnet school and students do have to apply to attend, but the differences in facilities couldn’t have been more stark. Trash cans in classrooms to catch water leaks in the ceiling being just one example. I don’t think I have to mention that the demographics of each school is very different. Despite the obvious dedication of the faculty that work there, It was a reminder of the issues of equity that still exist in our educational system.
The middle school students that competed at the FIRST Lego League event came from all over the metro DC area, including Maryland and Virginia, and were a joy to interact with. I was assigned to be a project judge, and teams had to give us a presentation of a product they developed to help humans in space. Space was the theme of the entire event, which included a robot challenge based on missions that are done in space. It was a lot of fun.
Here are some pictures from the various events. As usual, click for larger versions and captions.