PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- From viewing the Mars landing of "Curiosity" at Pasadena Mission Control to a demonstration of "Shark Byte" the basketball playing robot in Philadelphia, Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) has spent a busy bi-coastal week involved with the nation's science of today – and the scientists of tomorrow.
Fattah, the top House Democratic appropriator for science agencies including NASA and the National Science Foundation, wrapped up his week close to home today with a student-led robotics demonstration at the Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club and an inspirational talk to middle school students attending the Greater Philadelphia STEM Summer Science Camp at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
"Science and innovation are why we are leading the world, and the only way we can stay on top is if we can get many of you to think about being scientists and engineers," Fattah told the STEM Summer Camp students from North and West Philadelphia. "There are all kinds of jobs you can do, which why math and science education is so very important. I'm here because I'm excited about what you're doing."
Fattah is a leader in the Congress for promoting and funding education programs in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, math – especially for students from low-income and under-served backgrounds. He is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies, including NASA and NSF.
At Wissahickon Boys and Girls Club in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood earlier today, Fattah had a reunion with the champion Firebirds Team 433 from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown PA as the all-girl robotics team demonstrated robots that play basketball and soccer. More than 100 young people from the Boys and Girls Club happily worked the dials and raced "Shark Byte" and "Jack Jack" around the gym floor.
Fattah had earlier met the Firebirds as they competed in St. Louis this spring during the FIRST Robotics Competition before tens of thousands of spectators at the Edward Jones Dome. Fattah attended the competition to announce that he had forged a national partnership between FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to sign the American Innovation and Mentorship Agreement. Under the AIM agreement, FIRST is providing mentors and innovative robotics-based programming for up to four million youth in 3,000 Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide by 2015.
Today's demonstration, one of many by the Firebirds, was an example of that collaboration. Fattah has worked in Congress to increase federal investment from the Justice Department in youth mentoring and programs including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
"We need more of our young people to become enthusiastic about science," Fattah said in the midst of enthusiastic youngsters guiding the robots whizzing past.
Fattah began his Science Week in the wee hours Monday morning at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where he observed the landing of Mars rover "Curiosity" from NASA's Mission Control.
"NASA has always been a model of public and private partnering – our brightest home-grown entrepreneurs and innovators working hand in hand with our government to push back the frontiers of space and science," Fattah said from Pasadena. "Administrator Charles Bolden and the whole dedicated NASA team are to be commended as they tackle this crucial next stage and satisfy our 'Curiosity."
During the next two days on the West Coast, Fattah visited three of NASA's private contractor-entrepreneurs. Two of those contractors -- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in California and Boeing outside Seattle, have just received $900 million in contracts (a third contract went to Sierra Nevada Corp.) to build the craft that will launch American astronauts and supplies into earth orbit, heralding the next era of NASA's partnering approach to space. Fattah also visited Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., to learn more about NASA's James Webb telescope.
SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah