June President's Page

June 01, 2022

June President's Page

STEM Outreach
Susan Northrup, M.D., M.P.H., FAsMA

Let me begin by thanking everyone for the honor of serving as your 2022–2023 President. I am humbled by the selection. Our organization will continue to lead the aviation community as we recover from a global pandemic. Members of AsMA were at the very heart of the COVID-19 response providing expert advice and interpretation of the available data as national leaders across the globe cooperated to keep airplanes flying safely. They deserve every accolade we can give them. More of our members were involved at the local and regional levels, tirelessly helping communities mitigate risks and recover some sense of normalcy. We should stand proudly by what we have accomplished. But it is time to turn our attention to our future and the future of our organization. The theme for my presidential year will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach.
   So, why choose STEM? Quite simply, the aviation community is facing shortages in many areas – pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, and medicine. One day we will need to replace ourselves. In order to have individuals from all areas of society be able to successfully enter the aviation sector, they need the skills necessary to compete for training slots and jobs. But first, they need to know the sector exists. To quote a co-worker, Georgina Johnson, “If they can’t see it, they can’t be it.” Further, waiting to introduce the next generation to aviation until high school is too late. They must begin to develop the skills and desire in middle school so they are prepared for the tough science, technology, engineering, and math classes in high school and beyond. We need to help ensure every person who wishes to be employed in our sector is an able candidate regardless of socioeconomic background, race, or gender.
   How can we get help in STEM outreach? Get involved! Join a youth group as an advisor interested in STEM. Volunteer in local schools. Participate in a career day. Judge a science competition. Sponsor a group or youth member. Mentor a Science Olympiad Team. You’ll be surprised what young people are thinking! Some of the most rewarding outreach I have done is judging local science fairs. It takes a day. In the morning, typically, the judges review the poster boards and scientific notebooks. In the afternoon, the judges interview the scientists asking about the projects, methods, outcomes, and conclusions. Then, they grade them. The students can progress from local fairs all the way to the International Science and Engineering Fair. Every time I judge, I learn something and am excited about the direction young people are taking with innovative ideas. And what do the kids get out of it? Experience with the scientific method. Hands on experimentation. Developing a formal scientific presentation in a poster format. They have to present their work formally to strangers. Top performers get everything from swag to cash to scholarships from major universities. Interestingly, there are prizes aimed at certain types of research, and students will design and execute research to compete for those awards.
   There are benefits to society, too. STEM workers typically earn more than those in other jobs. If we help get all sectors of our country interested, educated, and motivated to pursue aviation, we can increase the numbers of workers from those areas of society who are underrepresented in these career areas. We won’t need to worry who will carry on our work. We will have helped identify and train them.
   In closing, I would like to encourage each of you to consider what you could do to advance STEM outreach. Think outside the box. Share your ideas. Leverage your connections. We’d love to hear your ideas.
   Finally, a huge thank you to the team that put on our recent scientific meeting in Reno. It was a huge success. We couldn’t do it without our dedicated AsMA staff and volunteers.

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