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U.S. Space Force's STEM Outreach Program
by DoD SMART Scholarship Program
February 28, 2023

The Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program Scholar Mr. Jonathan Stroud and his mentor, Ms. Nicole Palmer, were recently awarded the Fiscal Year 2022 SMART Scholars and Mentors of the Year award for a scholar currently fulfilling their service commitment for a bachelor’s degree.

As a scholar and mentor pair, Stroud and Palmer exemplify the SMART Program’s mission to create a highly skilled STEM workforce by inspiring future STEM generations. Most notably, they established the STEM Outreach Program for the Space Systems Command (SSC), which is part of the U.S. Space Force.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program Scholar Mr. Jonathan Stroud and his mentor, Ms. Nicole Palmer, were recently awarded the Fiscal Year 2022 SMART Scholars and Mentors of the Year award for their efforts in the development of the U.S. Space Force's STEM Outreach Program. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photo by DoD SMART Scholarship Program.)
The Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program Scholar Mr. Jonathan Stroud and his mentor, Ms. Nicole Palmer, were recently awarded the Fiscal Year 2022 SMART Scholars and Mentors of the Year award for their efforts in the development of the U.S. Space Force's STEM Outreach Program. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photo by DoD SMART Scholarship Program.)

Through the development of the STEM Outreach Program, Stroud and Palmer are crafting the STEM education and outreach strategy, aligning with the DoD STEM Strategic Plan (SSC), providing an infrastructure for the entire SSC. With the goal of building a diverse, educated, and technically competent STEM workforce, the program is establishing outreach activities for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Currently, the SSC’s STEM Outreach Program serves students in 21 underserved schools, many within communities throughout Southern California and across the nation.

An important aspect of the STEM Outreach Program is mentorship. Stroud and Palmer encourage scientists, engineers, and other STEM professionals at SSC to volunteer in the program’s outreach activities. Through these engagement opportunities, current DoD STEM workforce inspire students to become future STEM leaders.

The program also has a partnership with the STEM Coalition, a non-profit local to Southern California communities, which help to leverage industry and academic professionals. Additionally, Stroud and Palmer began collaborating with the Space Systems Command’s Diversity, Education and Inclusion Director to develop a monthly mentoring program for underserved youth.

To date, Stroud and Palmer have volunteered over 80 hours, reaching more than 6,500 students. Stroud has spent more than 20 hours of his personal time to establish grade-specific curriculum for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, overseeing weekly lesson plan meetings with subject matter experts. These efforts ensure the lesson plans meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

According to the National Science Teaching Association, “[t]wenty states and the District of Columbia (representing over 36% of U.S. students) have adopted the [NGSS].” The curriculum development includes grade-specific lesson plans that relate to SSC career paths such as space, satellites, rockets, and the global positioning system. Plans are free for teachers and are being taught by over 90 Space Force volunteers.

The impact of the STEM Outreach Program has been recognized by DoD leadership, as well as, the current Presidential Administration.

In July 2022, Stroud was the first in the U.S. Space Force to be awarded the DoD STEM Advocate of the Quarter by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)). OUSD(R&E), the leading science and technology office for the entire DoD, recognized Stroud for “his exemplary support to the DoD’s mission to inspire young Americans in STEM through his determined advocacy for STEM education and community outreach programs connected to DoD technology priorities.”

The Air Force’s leadership, including the Air Force STEM Office, has sought out the scholar and mentor pair’s expertise. At times, they are asked to serve as representatives on behalf of U.S. Space Force leadership at engagements affiliated with the First Lady of the United States and the Vice President. Together, Stroud and Palmer embody the vision of the SMART Scholarship Program to create a highly skilled STEM workforce as they continue to mentor and inspire future diverse, talented STEM leaders.

Annually, SMART recognizes scholar and mentor pairs who embody the SMART vision of creating a highly skilled DoD workforce that competes with the dynamic trends in technology and innovation to protect national security. These awards recognize outstanding scholar achievements as well as the valuable guidance provided by their mentor at a SMART sponsoring facility.

U.S. Space Force | U.S. Department of Defense

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