NASA visits KU to talk future of STEM field

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNT) – The need for more people in science, technology, engineering and math is constantly growing.

To address this issue, hundreds of people met on Wednesday at the University of Kansas to hear from NASA officials.

K-12 teachers, university professors, business representatives, and government officials heard from experts on how to prepare the next generation for the future.

“It gives us the ability to create a workforce pipeline,” said Sam Ortega, manager of the Marshall Space Flight Center Partnerships office at NASA. “So K-12 individuals, that’s the Mars generation, individuals in college right now are the ones doing the moon efforts, a sustained presence on the moon come 2028 and beyond.”

Business representatives are hoping the pipeline becomes filled with qualified candidates.

“Educators and the people that are in the K-12 areas can actually understand the importance of science and technology to the educational process so that the workforce can be better prepared for the opportunities that come with that,” said Greg Panichello, state director for the Kansas Small Business Development Center.

NASA officials showed educators what the best ways are to get students interested in the field. They said that can not only positively impact NASA but other industries like agriculture, communications, medical jobs.

“Taking those technologies and sharing them throughout other industries, it’s an economic boon for everyone,” Ortega said. “It’s not just all about aerospace but as we go to the moon, those technologies that we need are also the same technologies that are utilized throughout other technology sectors.”

Organizers said having representatives from across the state is important to make sure enough young people are getting into the field.

“You need people that are not just motivated but prepared to do the things that need to be done, to think of the new stuff, and so inspiring and engaging as many people as possible is what it’s all about,” said Scott Miller, Wichita State University aerospace engineering professor.

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