WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan received an award for educational leadership yesterday at the U.S. Capitol. Sablan was recognized during the 2015 STEM and Innovation Congressional Welcoming Reception.
Hosts of the event included STEM4US!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exciting young people and adults about healthcare, technology, manufacturing and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. STEM4US! has set a goal of helping create 1 million new STEM professionals by 2023 by encouraging participation in STEM programs, such as the Real World Design Challenge.
Sablan thanked attendees for his award and recounted the story of the Northern Mariana Islands’ own Real World Design Challenge team, the Marianas High School Aeronautical Dolphins. The Dolphins won the national Real World Design competition in 2013.
“In 2011 I was contacted by Mr. John Raulerson, a teacher, who had recently started an aviation class at our Marianas High School,” Sablan told the assembled educators.
“He had 16 students. They were enthusiastic about learning the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math of flying. But they only had three textbooks.
“So I reached out to the Pentagon and we found 40 excess copies of an aviation textbook down at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. And we got those textbooks into the hands of those students.”
The following year, Sablan continued, the Aeronautical Dolphins won their regional competition, came to Washington, and took eighth place in the nationals. In 2013 they again won at the regional level and came to nationals with the design for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to use in remote search and rescue and with a business plan to market their design.
“This time, they took first place,” Sablan said proudly, “against students from private schools and well-funded public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts and California. Six students, from a faraway place, with just a few years of experience, won a national STEM competition.”
Sablan said the lesson from this inspiring story is that America has tremendous, untapped potential that should be given the opportunity to grow.
“We have to invest in our students, invest in education—and by doing so, invest in the future of America.
“I am on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. In the next weeks we are going to be working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And we will have a simple choice: invest in education, invest in America’s future or short-change our students and our nation.
“America cannot afford to have schools where 16 students have to share three textbooks—or beg for books from the Pentagon.”
Also co-sponsoring last night’s awards ceremony were some of the top education and innovation leaders in the nation, including the Edison Electric Institute, United Negro College Fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Pepco, Minority Media Telecom & Internet Council, and USA Science & Engineering Festival.