After a trip of nearly 1.74 billion miles lasting 5 years, scientists nationwide can be forgiven for anxiously asking “Are we there yet?” about Juno’s entry into polar orbit around Jupiter. The silence during the 48 minute delay—the amount of time it takes for Juno to communicate with Earth—must have been deafening as those on the ground had no way of knowing if the spacecraft had slowed sufficiently to respond to the enormous tug of Jupiter’s gravitational pull.
A few musical tones heard at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena CA finally signified success and well-deserved smiles, hugs and back slapping ensued. But what a success! Juno entered orbit within one centimeter of its planned trajectory and only one second later than NASA had projected. Think of it—only one centimeter and one second were the negligible margin of error.
We now have 20 months of incredible photographs and astounding scientific breakthroughs to look forward to as Juno orbits Jupiter over 30 times. We can hardly wait!
To whet our appetite, Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator released this video yesterday saying "This is the king of our solar system and its disciples going around it. To me, it's very significant, because we're finally able to see — with real video, with real pictures — this motion, and we've only been able to imagine it up until today.
The workplace looks different than it did 50 years ago. I’m sure you’ve noticed. Maybe they replaced your static building directory with a touch-enabled digital display directory or the lights in your copy room go off when no one’s using it. But there are likely other innovations that you haven’t noticed. Maybe your building’s water supplier switched to digital meters that better measure your usage to ensure your bill is accurate. Maybe the electricity powering your computer runs on a smart grid that “automatically responds to failures and disturbances” to reduce the chances of a power failure.
Digital infrastructure refers to these oft unseen and yet essential advances woven into our daily interactions. But behind all innovations to our infrastructure are STEM innovators--the makers, the doers, the tinkerers—who improve old systems and create new ones. STEM professionals with ideas change the way we do our jobs and how we live our lives.
One such example shows how Indy 500 pit stops ran in the 1950s vs. how they run now—thanks to STEM.
Even though we’re not all pit stop technicians, we witness constant evolution in the workplace. And we can only ponder how we’ll be working tomorrow.
Last week we saw this article proposing an awards show that spotlights scientists in a way that’s as big as the Oscars. The author argues for a science awards show grand in stature, which would present awards to the top five to 10 breakthroughs in science. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? We thought so too. But the reality is that it’s unlikely an award show will be enough to inspire young people about STEM. In fact, the Academy Awards ratings indicate difficulty attracting young viewers to even the Oscars. This article in Variety noted that, “If most [young] people haven’t heard of the nominees, they aren’t going to watch, and the business will lose more young viewers to indifference, because TV and video games are engaging them in a way that movies aren’t.”
So what’s the solution? We’ve got to focus our efforts on building a strong foundation by fostering interest in STEM at a young age. Young people should be exposed to STEM earlier and in a variety of ways, from proven STEMworks and other high-quality programs to other more grassroots kinds of opportunities. Effectively collaborating with community organizations to help gain interest in STEM has been a major shortcoming. At our February STEM Salon announcing our recent Vital Signs brief, Sandra Evers Manly, vice president for Global Corporate Responsibility at CTEq member company Northrop Grumman Corporation, emphasized the importance of not overlooking grassroots programs, “Often times because it may not be pretty and packaged well, we tend to turn away and say this is not a successful program. But I can follow students through Northrop Grumman who started in SEEK, who then became a part of the NSBE chapters on college campuses, and who are now part of our company.”
Every day, CTEq members invest in strategies that will build the workforce of tomorrow in the communities where its employees live and work:
Maybe an Academy Awards for STEM isn’t the solution, but shining a spotlight on the good commitments of Corporate America and promoting strong STEM programs will go a long way to inspiring young people. As CTEq continues to march toward our goal of reaching 1.5 million more young people with high-quality STEM experiences in 2015, we have to be both dynamic and realistic in our approach. For more on inspiring young people in STEM, check out the video from our STEM Salon, below.
In case you're not following the tournament, today's Men's Singles final match of the U.S. Open will be an exciting one. The two final competitors, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic, are both making their finals debuts after knocking out tournament favorites Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, respectively. We're hopeful that these two underdogs will put on a memorable show for tennis fans in their final match!
All this talk about crowning a new Grand Slam champ has us thinking about - you guessed it! - the science behind tennis! And if you think about it, there's a lot about tennis worth exploring through the STEM lens, a few of which include:
Racquet science: this field of study is hugely important to the sport because, whether you're a pro or an amateur, tennis players are always in search of the "sweet spot" - the point on a raquet at which the force of the ball is best distributed to have the least amount transmitted to the player, allowing for the best return.
Tennis ball aerodynamics: like other sports projectiles, the aerodynamics of a tennis ball is a complex study of its spin, seams, size and surface, all of which effect its flight path.
Power serve: tennis player Sabine Lisicki recently set the record for the fastest serve ever recorded in women's tennis - an incredible 131 miles per hour! While faster serves have been made in men's tennis, Lisicki's record-breaking rocket illustrates why female players can serve as fast as their male counterparts.
The grunt: yes, even the loud exertion noises made by the players during tennis have a STEM-connection! In fact, a tennis ball's velocity is shown to increase 4 percent when a player grunts as the ball is hit.
The hottest debate in tennis, however, is undoubtedly around which surface - grass, clay, or hardcourt - allows for the best play. Fans and players alike have their preferences, but there are some STEM facts to consider before chosing. While a ball hit on clay retains the most of its "bounce," the friction of the ball's material on the surface reduces its velocity by 40 percent! On grass, a ball will only lose 30 percent of that velocity because it essentially skids across the blades, allowing a 120 mph serve to bounce off of the surface about 8 miles per hour (or about 0.05 seconds) faster than on clay. While that doesn't seem like much, a player actually has 17 percent less time to react!
Make sure to catch the rest of the STEM action on the court while you're watching today's U.S. Open final match!
You can see STEM popping up in many popular places these days, and we hope it's a trend that continues because it seems to be causing a shift in the mindset that enjoying subjects like alegbra and physics makes you "uncool."
Now, in stores, books, music, online, and on TV, STEM is finding a home in pop culture and more people are discovering all of the fun to be had! Prominent online sources of pop culture content like Upworthy and Buzzfeed are creating fun, sharable STEM tidbits that often go viral. Recently, STEM even made it to primetime with the reboot of the Cosmos series, which received critical praise, a large weekly viewership, and amazing social engagement.
Whatever the source, it's always a delight to on our favorite show or visit our favorite websites and see STEM front-and-center!
Kevin Delaney, Director of Visitor Experience at the Museum of Discovery, wows the audience of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Pop culture has been embracing STEM and making kids and adults alike rethink the preconceived notions we have about it. The days of the "math geek" and "science nerd" are numbered, as students overcome peer pressures to explore the topics that fascinate them, like robotics or architecture. It's even becoming easier to (literally) wear your love of STEM on your sleeve!
T-shirt designs from HUMAN that let you show off your sense of humor and love of STEM at the same time.
It's also great to see girls getting particularly encouraged to turn their STEM dreams into reality. Female STEM role models and positive messaging in pop culture are spreading the word: STEM is for girls too! Awesome programs like those in STEMworks focus especially on empowering girls to develop their STEM skills and one day bring them to an awesome STEM job. Companies across varied industries are taking a close look at their diversity (or lack thereof) and are working to attract women to their STEM workforces.
Toy company GoldieBlox created the most STEMtastic Super Bowl ad we've ever seen and inspired girls to get into engineering!
We're happy to see that STEM attitudes are changing in the U.S. because generating excitement for subjects like math has proven difficult. In fact, according to the latest STEMtistic on the subject, 30 percent of Americans reported that they would rather clean the bathroom than solve a math problem! But if students get access to quality STEM classes in areas of interest like coding, app design, and engineering, their interests can go from curiosities to college majors or technical certificates and land them STEM careers that they love!
We understand that people don't necessarily view STEM as part of their everyday lives like we do here at CTEq. But more and more, STEMthusiasts are making their voices heard, pop culture is carrying the message, and one thing is becoming clear -- science, technology, engineering, and math are really as cool as we think they are!