What is it?
The ORION Project is a comprehensive outreach to students grades 10 through 11 who are struggling in science and math. Yes, not outstanding in STEM, but struggling in STEM.
Our research showed that there are many outreach activities for students excelling in the STEM areas. There are many conferences and events to reach out to the students already successful. But we could not find outreach to students struggling in the STEM areas.
Phase two of the Orion project is the Orion Summit, an all-day event (our pilot program) for 125 students (100 from the urban St Cloud District & 25 from Rural Foley District) who are failing/failed science & math classes. These students, in cohorts of 10, will be part of a hands-on experiential day involving them successfully in STEM activities. Adam Steltzner will be our keynote presenter in addition to other successful students & business people who have been told they were not college material and are now successful.
Phase three is the Orion Academy, made up of the cohort attendees from the summit, who will be enrolled in year-long activities that will result in St Cloud Technical & Community College transcripted credit and mentor relationships with college, high school and business communities.
Phase one of the Orion Project is the collecting of stories from successful business/industry people who had been told that they were not college material and who overcame that barrier, enrolled in college and became successful. We are compiling these stories in print and video to show to K-12 students.
This project was funded in part by the Initiative Foundation, a Regional Foundation.
Adam Steltzner as Inspiration
The Orion Project is named for Adam Steltzner, a NASA engineer who was the lead engineer of the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity rover EDL phase (Entry, Descent and Landing), and helped design, build and test the sky crane landing system. Adam struggled in classes in high school, failing geometry, and in addition to being told he was not “college material” his father said he would never amount to anything but a ditch digger. After high school he played bass and drums at clubs and while driving home from music gigs at night, he noticed how the position of stars change. Those stars he was observing happened to be the constellation Orion. To learn more he decided to take an astronomy class at a community college, but he was required to complete a class in physics first, and it was there he had a revelation: nature could be understood and predicted. As Steltzner put it, "I had found religion." From that point on, he devoted himself full time to STEM activities in higher education and then at the Jet Propulsion Lab at NASA.
Adam represents students we see every day at our community & technical college. They are students who have been told that they are “not college material” and they believe it. They drop out of high school or barely graduate. Some find their way here and their lives are changed, like Adam’s life was changed. So what about the students who don’t make it to college, still believing they can’t? Who reaches out to them?