DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF AEROSPACE PERSONNEL
By James W. Barnard
It is a well-recognized fact that the United States will face a severe shortage of students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in the next few years. The aerospace industry has been complaining about this, and asking how to interest young people in these fields for over a decade. Indeed annual issues of Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine over the past ten years (including the most recent issue) have addressed this in feature articles. They point out that most youngsters would rather become computer programmers and write video games than go into fields relating directly to the aerospace and defense industries.
The oft-stated solution is to talk to high school and college students, and try to persuade them to get interested in the A & D fields, to offer scholarships (especially to the children of employees of aerospace companies) as an incentive to follow the "space sciences". Still others point to the need to improve employment conditions for people entering the field, in an attempt to remove the negatives (e.g., frequent layoff cycles) to which past aerospace and defense employees have been subjected. Certainly, these factors surely will influence the next generation.
But, in this writer's opinion, simply approaching secondary school students is far too late! Personal experience in the writer's own career, as well as consultation with educators leads me to strongly believe that if children have not been exposed to and interested in STEM subjects no later than fifth or sixth grades, it is probably going to be too late!
The average age of personnel in Mission Control when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon was 26. (Those people are now 65+.) This means that if crewed missions back to the Moon take place in the 2020 time-frame, there is somewhere a 5th or 6th grader who must become interested in space exploration, now!
Unlike the "war babies" and the "baby boom" generation, who were exposed to the rapid advances in aviation in the post-World War II through the Apollo eras, the current generation of children and adults have grown accustomed to (and apparently bored by) "routine" Shuttle operations, except when disasters like the Challenger and Columbia crashes occur. Unlike the days of the famous Collier's Magazine articles and the Wonderful World of Disney's Tomorrow Land productions by von Braun, Ley, et al, there is not so much being done generally, on the national level to interest kids in space exploration.
This is not to say that there have been no efforts by various organizations to interest kids in space! NASA has its Explorer School program of approximately 150 schools which receive about $17,000 for the first year of the program, following which the schools must be funded locally. The schools are supposed to be located in inner-city areas, particularly where the socio-economic levels are lower. (Interestingly there is only one Explorer School in the State of Colorado, and that is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in an area that is not what one would call, low-income!) There are none in Denver, nor the surrounding suburban school districts. NASA did recently send out a request for schools across the nation to apply for Explorer School status.
The Space Foundation, in Colorado Springs, teaches the teachers, offering summer courses in the aerospace curriculum. Such courses are open to teachers from all over the country. And they do come! And the courses are excellent! (This writer audited one of the courses several years ago.) But these courses are expensive, and they are limited in how many teachers can enroll. (It is noteworthy that Boeing has been one of the principal supporters of this program.)
Museums such as Denver's Museum of Nature and Science, the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Chicago's Adler Planetarium, Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, run terrific programs and exhibits! The Space Camp programs certainly offer kids and adults a thrilling experience. And the Experimental Aircraft Association, in cooperation with organizations like Wings do everything they can to show the kids real, "live" airplanes. Also, some aerospace companies send their employees out to public schools, to talk about their programs, and individuals such as this author, et al, have spoken to various schools, scout groups, etc, on a limited basis.
But, there are difficulties. Students who do not live within practical "striking distance" of such museums may not be able to take advantage of their presence. Even where schools are within a relatively short distance from a museum, there may not be funding available for field trips. (Bus transportation becomes more and more expensive as gasoline prices soar into the heavens faster than a Shuttle launch!) Individual parents may be unwilling or unable to schedule trips for their children, if they themselves aren't interested in space subjects.
The "No Child Left Behind" legislation mandated by Congress may prove to have an overall benefit to educating children, but the requirements levied by this program are resulting, rightly or wrongly, in teachers having less and less time to schedule outside speakers into their classrooms. And school administrators are often uncertain whether programs on "space" are worthwhile for their teachers and student, without some sort of imprimatur of a recognized "authority" or organization. Hence, they are reluctant to recommend to the teachers that they make room for such talks.
There is some validity to this skepticism. While talks about the history of space exploration and, perhaps, the experiences of veteran engineers and scientists, including this writer, may prove interesting, kids want to know what is happening now, and what may/will happen in the future. Keeping up with some of the latest developments in space and science, and developing concise programs to be presented in a timely manner can be a time-consuming task for single individuals, and editing and packaging information that can be presented to various grade levels, without either boring the older kids, or going way over the heads of the younger ones can be a daunting task for one individual. (This author spoke to two after-school groups composed of K-6th graders! What was amazing was the younger students were asking more detailed questions that the 6th graders!)
One might expect the various space advocacy organizations to have come to similar conclusions, and created their own programs along these lines. With the exception, perhaps of Wings Over the Rockies, and the Space Foundation, this writer has been rather disappointed by the efforts seen to date! Even where some regional segments and local chapters have put together programs, their national headquarters have not substantially supported their efforts. This is surprising, but sadly, true!
What is needed is a National Committee for the Promotion of Space Education. Such a committee should be composed of representatives from as many space advocacy groups as possible, including, but not limited to the National Space Society, Mars Society, Planetary Society, and the Moon Society, as well as aerospace and defense corporations, commercial space developers, etc. Assistance from NASA would certainly be welcomed, provided such assistance did not violate any prohibitions against the Space Agency advertising or promoting itself under the law, and also provided that content of information was not limited to NASA programs or policies. The intent would be to develop programs for presentation to school children in grades K-12, with emphasis on grades 3 &endash; 8, and to develop contacts with school district administrators and teachers throughout the United States. Such a joint committee would develop presentations and information packages to be utilized by local docents for schools and youth organizations.
This effort will not be accomplished without some difficulty. Some organizations may feel they are relinquishing some of their prestige, or may not feel they have the personnel or funds to cooperate in such a venture. It is hoped that if prominent figures in the aerospace community were to exert their powers of persuasion, any reluctance on the part of such organizations might be overcome.
Funding may also be a limiting factor, as it is in the space program itself. It is to be hoped that expenses can be held to a minimum, if such a committee is not bureaucratized too much. Further backing might be obtained from private industry, individuals, and the advocacy organizations themselves.
Regardless of the final form of such an effort, it is vital to the future of our Space Program to interest and educate youngsters. Even those who do not choose to become actively involved in the space program can, if sufficiently interested, become advocates for the exploration of space.
To aid the various organizations in implementing this project, the attached Draft Resolution is offered for presentation to the governing bodies of the various organizations.
To discuss this concept further with the writer, contact:James W. Barnard
2359 E. Crestmont Ln.
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126-4500
Ph: (303) 791-6068
FAX: (303) 683-5357
By James W. Barnard
Whereas, there has been and is an ongoing shortage of students and graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields who are interested in careers in the aerospace industr(y)(ies), as evidenced by periodic reports from industry and government (including annual articles on the subject in Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine, over the past decade), and,
Whereas, the number of college graduates in the STEM disciplines in countries such as China and India, far outstrips those graduates in the United States (approximately one-half million versus 70,000 according to Norm Augustine, former CEO of Martin-Marietta, et al), jeopardizing the United States' technological lead and base in the space sciences, and,
Whereas, it is recognized by many educators that children are highly influenced as to the career fields they choose in the early primary grades through the mid-secondary grades, and,
Whereas, even those children who do not choose careers in space, can have a positive influence on their parents, and by themselves as adults in supporting the expansion of our exploration of space, and,
Whereas, a program conducted under the aegis of international and national space advocacy organizations often carries more weight than one run by a smaller group or individual, therefore,
Be it resolved, that the "__________ Society" shall institute a program to introduce, acquaint and educate students in grades K-12, and especially in the grades 3-12, with the rationale for, history of, and the current and potential future efforts in robotic and human space exploration and commercial space projects.
Such a program to shall include programs to for presentation to schools, clubs, scout organizations, etc., and shall include but not be limited to programs and projects relating to space and how it benefits humankind. Said program(s) to be conducted through and by local chapters, and individual members, with the support of the parent space advocacy organization, in as close cooperation and coordination with such other space advocacy organizations as may be practicable.
Support by the parent organization headquarters shall include, but not be limited to, preparation of guidelines for contacting administrators of the above-mentioned schools, groups, and industrial companies, etc.; preparation of materials and aids for use in such presentations; assistance in obtaining guest speakers, such as astronauts, engineers, etc., from both government agencies and private industry; and financial aid as may necessary.
It is recognized that such a program will require funding. To the extent that the organization's national headquarters cannot provide this funding, contributions should be solicited from local chapters and individual members. Private industry, including the major aerospace and defense corporations should also be asked for support. It is, after all in their best interest to have a pool of potential future personnel obtained from such educational programs.
This proposal is offered with the conviction that only in this way can the space exploration and development effort be maintained, and the future of America and humankind in space guaranteed.Ad Luna! Ad Ares! Ad Astra!
James W. Barnard
August 28, 2007
Who is James W. Barnard?
James W. Barnard is a retired aerospace engineer and entrepreneur who became interested in aviation and space early in life. By 1954, while still in 4th grade, he was actively corresponding with missiles and space pioneers such as R.C. Truax. Such interest later resulted in a summer job with Truax, at Aerojet-General's Advanced Development Dept. in 1962.
By age 15, Jim was designing and developing (independently from his high school curriculum) a series of static test weight liquid bi-propellant (fuming nitric acid/aniline) rocket engines, conducting static firings with the assistance of several engineers at Illinois Institute of Technology, and culminating in a highly successful series of static tests in the summer of 1960, at Purdue University's Jet Propulsion Lab, right after graduation from high school.
Jim's formal, professional career in the aerospace field began in the summers of 1959 and 1960, as a summer hire, working for an ordnance development company, doing data reduction. This was followed by summer jobs in 1961 at Cape Canaveral, on the Polaris SLBM, where he also six of the seven Mercury astronauts, and a summer job with R.C. Truax.
After graduating from Bradley University, he was commissioned a 2LT in the United States Air Force, and served as a Minuteman Missile Maintenance Officer. Following release from active duty with the Air Force, and obtaining another degree from the University of Denver, he then worked for Lockheed Missiles and Space Co.'s Missile Systems Division, at Sunnyvale, CA, on the Poseidon SLBM, and later for Martin-Marietta Corp, on both the Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster parachute recovery system, and Titan launch vehicles. In addition, he also worked in non-aerospace industry as a design and test development engineer.
Currently, Jim is owner and president of Trailrider Products, producing custom leather sporting goods for hunters, re-enactors and competitors.
But his interest in the exploration of space has never waned! He is a member of the National Space Society and its Front Range L5 Chapter, a charter member of the Mars Society, and a member of the Planetary Society, and the Moon Society, as well as being an individual advocate for human space exploration.