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Hampton City Schools students and teachers exhibit at STEM Exploration Community Event


On Saturday, November 6, more than 256 middle school STEM enthusiasts and their families descended on the Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center to learn more about the James Webb Space Telescope, the Brooks Crossing iLab, STEM careers and to engage in hands-on experiences with 22 STEM-focused exhibitors. The STEM Exploration Community Event was one of 500 official sites from across the country to celebrate the upcoming launch of NASA’s next great space science observatory. The event was a collaborative venture between Hampton City Schools, Newport News Public Schools, the National Institute of Aerospace, NASA, the city of Newport News, Brooks Crossing, Virginia Space Grant Consortium, and Old Dominion University.


More than 80 members of the Hampton City Schools community attended the event. Members of the Brave Hearts club from Jones Magnet Middle School, under the direction of sponsor Tijuania Lambert, engaged attendees in learning about the Pinwheel galaxy and constructing an actual pinwheel of this unique galaxy. Brave Hearts girls Autumn Cameron, Caitlyn Joines, Neveah McLaurin, Ashleigh Roland, A’Kiera Salik, Iyana Sharpe, and Robin Sorrell applied their academic knowledge in communicating effectively with the public while providing service to the community. The girls are being mentored by the Eta chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa International Educational sorority.


Forrest reading support specialist Aimee Ryder and Kecoughtan High School Performing Arts Academy junior Emma Ryder volunteered their time greeting the public and passing out NASA swag bags, to attendees including special visitors Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott and Newport News City Council members Tina L. Vick and David H. Jenkins.


Student David Anderson of the Governor’s STEM Academy of Architecture, Environment, and Engineering and 2019 KHS alumnus (and North Carolina A&T student) DeSean Bostic assisted Kecoughtan High School science teachers Renita Bostic and Karen Chang in showcasing the Academies of Hampton. David and DeSean shared their knowledge of materials science with attendees and guided them in making Shrinky Dinks.


Kecoughtan High School Academy of Teaching, Education, and Learning students London Viney and Alexis DeSue provided outreach at the National Institute of Aerospace’s exhibit. Working with NASA interns and NASA eClips educators, they assisted students in building star life cycle bracelets that illustrate the journeys of both sun-like and massive stars. The girls took advantage of networking opportunities, making connections not only with NASA interns, but also with NASA’s Langley Research Center chief technologist Julie Williams-Byrd.


Besides participating in woodcutting, sewing, recording studio, and virtual reality activities inside the Brooks Crossing iLab, HCS teachers, students, and families had the opportunity to fly drones with Virginia Space Grant Consortium, build catapults with Newport News Shipbuilding, code and print name tag lanyards with Naval Information Warfare Systems, and make lava lamp necklaces with Ad Astra Media, LLC. Participants were able to hear from and get autographs from NASA legend and Congressional Gold Medal awardee Dr. Christine Mann Darden of “Hidden Figures” fame. Dr. Darden, a gifted mathematician and engineer, was a leader in supersonic flight and sonic booms during her 40-year career at NASA. Attendees were also able to hear from and ask questions of Chris Long, the flight systems engineering manager for the James Webb Space Telescope.


HCS director of community and legislative relations Ann Bane, a member of the planning committee for the event, said, “What a treat it was for me to witness our school divisions and so many of our partners from Hampton and Newport News collaborating to create such a wonderful experience for our young people! Our community celebration of the James Webb Space Telescope provided an opportunity for students in attendance to explore STEM, to imagine, and to dream. It allowed all of us to come face-to-face with individuals who ‘put feet to their dreams’, trailblazers who continue to make history.”  


“I saw a love of discovery in the eyes of those who participated in the STEM Community Event. Students were given time to interact with successful innovators in the STEM field. Dr. Darden, Mrs. Williams-Byrd and Mr. Long shared their personal experiences, answered questions and dispelled any doubt the students may have had regarding what they are capable of accomplishing. The event served as a golden opportunity of exposure for our youth,” said Latosha Brown-Davis, assistant coordinator for HCS out of school time department.


Webb is the largest and most complex space science telescope ever built. This international mission, led by NASA, in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies, will launch on December 18, 2021. To learn more about the Webb telescope, visit webb.nasa.gov.