Last week, Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Florida State University (FSU) welcomed NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee—the K-12 outreach facility for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.
Nelson joined FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., and FSU President Richard McCullough, Ph.D., for a tour and spoke with engineering students about their research, encouraged FAMU Developmental Research School's (DRS) students to learn about space, discussed his time as an astronaut, and shared NASA’s goals for the future.
FAMU and FSU, along with the University of Central Florida, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and four NASA centers, are partners on a FAMU-led project to recruit more underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in aerospace engineering and give them hands-on training and experience. The project is funded by a $1.2 million grant from NASA.
“NASA is a 21st-century agency with 22nd-century goals,” Nelson said. “To be successful, it’s critical that NASA engages a diverse group of voices and partners because diversity ensures multiple viewpoints, new ways of thinking, and solutions to problems once thought unsolvable. NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project—and our partnership with the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering—is just one, critical way the agency is working to open doors for students across the country.”
In 1986, Nelson traveled to space as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Columbia. During his visit to Tallahassee, he recounted some of the challenges of spaceflight, and he provided insight on NASA’s Artemis mission, which will return astronauts to the moon and explore more of the lunar surface.
“Bill Nelson is a wonderful advocate for NASA’s mission, and he spoke about the space workforce of the future looking much more like America than in the past,” said J. Murray Gibson, Ph.D., dean of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. “The uniqueness of our college is that we...are especially suited to deliver a more diverse, highly trained workforce. Our unique combination of research and diversity is the key thing.”