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USASEF NiftyFifty Banner 2015

On the road to STEM success, students often benefit tremendously from interacting with exciting role models and mentors in these fields -- and the earlier it happens, the better! This is why the Festival - more than six years ago - began one of its most celebrated outreach initiatives: the Nifty Fifty school visit program, which this month kicked-off another year of doing what it does best -- motivating future STEM standouts!

nifity speakerKnown officially as the "Nifty Fifty (times 4)", this initiative of Science Spark, and presented by InfoComm International, is comprised of 200 of the most renowned professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. region this year to speak at middle and high schools about their work and how they began in their noted careers. Primed and ready, these experts represent some of the hottest professions in STEM today, including robotics, green technology, engineering, human health and medicine, astronomy, space exploration, nanotechnology, computer science, and more!

Here are just some examples of the inspiring heroes and heroines in STEM from the Nifty Fifty cadre who presented recently at schools in the D.C. area, or who will be speaking soon -- giving students exciting insights into how their work impacts us all:

--He Has One of the Coolest Jobs in Science Today: As Chief Scientist of the prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., spearheads this agency's mission to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment -- a job that affects marine and coastal life, weather prediction, climate change and ocean exploration. Says Richard: ¨In my job I've been out to sea on submarines, swum with humpback whales and flown through the eye of a hurricane. But most importantly I've had an influence on our environment. That's pretty cool!

--Saving Lives and Inspiring Future Innovators: In his career, Frederic Bertley, Ph.D., has helped develop an HIV vaccine at Harvard and led life-saving health improvements in such areas as Haiti and The Sudan. Currently Senior Vice President of Science and Education at the renowned Franklin Institute, Frederic now focuses on improving STEM education and science literacy throughout the K-16 population while igniting science discovery among young learners!

--The Power of Statistics: We all know how powerful statistics can be, but also how they can be manipulated and misinterpreted. Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D., is a mathematician widely known for keeping a watchful eye on how the news media uses stats in their stories about science, health education and other fields, and pinpointing inaccuracies -- which has important impact on government and public policy. In the process, she is also educates us on how we can, and should, become better science news consumers and critical thinkers!

--Three Cheers for the Mohawk Man of NASA: You may recall Bobak Ferdowsi from several years ago during Curiosity's historic rover landing on Mars. He was the flight director at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory control center who serenely went about his duties of directly Curiosity's mission -- all the while sporting an ultra-modern hairdo: a mohawk of red and blue. Bobak and his cool coif later became the iconic symbol of the rover's landing, boosting him into the limelight worldwide, and elevating him to celebrity status among young students. Says Bobak, a former student at MIT who holds a degree in aerospace engineering: "I think the stuff we do here at NASA is so cool, and I'm OK with kind of being an example, if that's what it takes. If my mohawk gets a few more people excited about science and the Curiosity mission, that's awesome."

For more information on this year's exciting Nifty Fifty Program, including speaker bios and presentation categories, click here. In addition, stay tuned to this Newsletter for further updates on the program for the 2015-2016 school year.