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
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.)
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.
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
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
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.
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