MUOS Launch Charges Energy into STEM Education

Over the next eight years, there will be more jobs available in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) than any other career field. To help strengthen the workforce pipeline, Lockheed Martin sponsors a variety of STEM education outreach programs for K-12 students. The launch of Lockheed Martin’s third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellite on Tuesday, Jan. 20, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, provided an opportunity for Lockheed Martin employees to visit six local seventh and eighth grade classrooms to encourage students to become the next generation of engineers and technologists.

Aligning with the launch, about 30 Lockheed Martin employees engaged around 280 students at Ronald McNair Magnet School in a STEM outreach event. Lockheed Martin volunteers oversaw student design teams constructing efficient and effective spacecraft-inspired structures made only from paper and masking tape that were capable of enduring book laden stress testing. The teams focused on meeting requirements, managing constraints and building innovative designs, all of which are essential skills in engineering disciplines. The team that could create the strongest structure by using the least amount of materials won.

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Lockheed Martin employee volunteers and teachers at McNair Middle School before the STEM event began.

“By bringing hands-on learning opportunities in the classroom, we’re able to spark the curiosity of tomorrow’s technical talent,” stated Mark Stewart, vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area. “Talking to students about an upcoming real-world satellite launch makes STEM topics incredibly relevant. By teaching the students about the technology Lockheed Martin is developing – such as MUOS that keeps our armed forces safe – we’re inspiring the next generation to tackle challenges with innovative solutions.”   

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Mark Stewart guides his team as they design their structure.

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McNair teachers after witnessing the MUOS-3 launch. Pictured from left to right are Jose Echevarria, Assistant Principal; Mary Gobert, Science Teacher; Mary DeRossett, Science Teacher; Richard Widmeier, Science Department Head; Megan Cooper, Science Teacher; and Veronica Raley, Magnet Coordinator.

The MUOS STEM activities did not end with the school bell. Six STEM champions from Ronald McNair Magnet School were invited to a behind-the-scenes MUOS-3 launch viewing opportunity. The invitees included the science department head, assistant principal and Magnet program coordinator and four science teachers. Space is part of the eighth graders’ curriculum, and the MUOS launch provides an immersive learning experience for the teachers to inspire their students’ understanding.

When asked how the launch experience would be included into his lesson plans, Science Department Head Richard Widmeier said, “I will be fully excited and charged with energy explaining to my students about the whole launch experience since I have been waiting for more than 20 plus years to see a launch up close and personal: Sound energy, thermal to heat energy to all the laws of newton, speed, velocity, acceleration, etc."

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is committed to working with schools and educators to expose students to the industry and technology to foster excitement for careers in STEM fields through their Launch and Learn program. For the 2013 MUOS-2 launch, six Lockheed Martin New Science Teacher Academy (NSTA) Fellows attended the U.S. Navy’s second MUOS liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The first-hand launch experience was an opportunity for the teachers to strengthen their content knowledge to improve the learning experience of their students.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale, California, is the MUOS prime contractor and system integrator. The Navy's Program Executive Office for Space Systems and its Communications Satellite Program Office in San Diego, California, are responsible for the MUOS program. The Lockheed Martin-built MUOS-3 satellite launched Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 8:04 p.m. EDT.