- As part of a hands-on STEM curriculum, a number of high schools and universities across the nation, including Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia and the University of Wisconsin, have adopted programs where students can actually design and build low earth orbit satellites.
- STEM education has gained greater focus as at least 16 states have adopted Next Generation Science Standards that emphasize students "figuring out" scientific concepts, instead of just being told what to think in high school and as they go on to college.
- Students at both the high school and university levels have been able to participate in more interactive programs by collaborating with organizations like NASA or other science education nonprofits that can craft engaging and interactive lessons.
New and innovative ways of getting students excited about STEM subjects, such as working with NASA to help students build satellites, is part of a greater emphasis on hands-on learning which is taking off around the country. An American Institutes for Research's "STEM 2026" report released last year outlined a vision over the next 10 years for STEM curriculum and recommended six key focus areas. These include creating engaged and networked communities of practice, developing accessible learning activities, providing experiences with interdisciplinary approaches to problem solution, utilitizing flexible learning spaces, fostering innovative ways of learning, and promoting an environment of diversity.
As educators in states, particularly those adopting new standards for science education, try to craft their curriculum, they can turn toward challenging but innovative activities like this one. One such tactic that schools in California have already been using is seeking help from other science oriented organizations like Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Exploratorium. For example, students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology developed teams to design, manage, launch, and test a satellite through weather balloon launches as a part of NASA's CubeSat program, reports the The Washington Post. And now, they hope to actually see their product go into orbit.