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Sharon Eggleston brings STEM education to thousands of K-12 youth in Maine

Posted on 04/20/2020 at 10:59 AM by Virginia Smith

Sharon Eggleston poses with astronaut suits at Johnson Space Center
Sharon Eggleston, shown here at Johnson Space Center in Houston, is the Northeast Regional Coordinator for Space Day Activities with the Maine Space Grant Consortium.

April 20, 2020

Meet Sharon Eggleston of the Maine Space Grant Consortium. Formally or informally, she has been an educator for most of her life whether as a project engineer for Lockheed Martin, serving as an adjunct instructor at a university or coordinating major STEM education events for thousands of K-12 students in her state. Most recently, she helped K-12 students ask questions of International Space Station astronauts from their home state of Maine. Here is her story. 

Tell us about yourself and how long you have been a Civil Air Patrol AEM.

Since 1997, I have been actively involved with the Maine Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) as an aerospace educator and the Northeast Regional Coordinator for Space Day Maine.  I have also been a CAP AEM since 2004.  During that time, I was employed by Lockheed Martin (LM) as a Senior Project Engineer working design, installation and integration of the AEGIS Weapon System on DDG 51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers.  I retired from LM in 2012 but have continued my association with the MSGC and CAP as an informal educator by promoting aerospace engineering and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I do this through a program called Space Day Maine.  For 21 years, I have organized events throughout Maine that have provided tens of thousands of K-12 students with opportunities to experience cutting edge technology as well as interact with experts in STEM fields (astronauts, engineers, pilots, scientists, the list goes on). 

Tell us about your career as an educator.

I feel as though I have been an educator most of my life, formal and informal.  From 1967-69, I studied at the University of Maryland to become a math teacher.  That was a difficult time for me and eventually, I left the university and raised a family. Once my last child entered school, I decided to return to the workforce.  While I was working for Lockheed Martin during the day, I was an adjunct professor teaching business courses in the evenings for Southern New Hampshire University.  After retirement, I was a substitute teacher for K-8 students. Retirement also allowed me to focus more of my attention on working informally with schools.  Space Day Maine filled that gap in my life and has become one of the premier informal educational events in the State of Maine for K-12 students. 

What is Space Day Maine?

Space Day is a year-round educational initiative dedicated to recognizing the extraordinary achievements, benefits and opportunities available to students in space exploration.  In 2004 alone, as Northeast Regional Coordinator for Space Day Activities, I personally sponsored 18 schools, 2 museums (including MIT Museum), the Challenger Learning Center of Maine and the Southworth Planetarium for Space Day.  In addition, I sponsored schools in New Jersey and Montana via the internet.  Over the years, tens of thousands of students have participated in Space Day activities.

Over the past several years, my team and I have been coordinating citywide celebrations on Space Day that have included local schools, the Maine Space Grant Consortium, Lockheed Martin, Bath Iron Works, the U.S. Navy, academia, private industry, museums, nonprofit organizations, and local and state officials.  Through the efforts of many people, our Space Day celebrations have been fun and very successful. 

Tell us about some of your awards/recognition.

My program has been so successful that I have been honored with numerous awards over the years: the Brewer Award (Civil Air Patrol), Women in Aerospace (US Air Force), NOVA Award (LM), Joshua Chamberlain Award, a Senatorial Sentiment from Senator Angus King and recently, the Cherri Brinley Outstanding Educator Award for outstanding contributions to Space Education (Space Center Houston).

You coordinated a recent event connecting two astronauts from your state with its students. Tell us more about that.

Recently (on April 13th) NASA held a downlink from the International Space Station with Maine astronauts Jessica Meir and Chris Cassidy.  I, along with the MSGC and the Challenger Learning Center, worked closely with teachers and students in Maine to provide students an opportunity to ask astronauts questions.   Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and both astronaut mothers also read student questions. We received numerous accolades from state and local officials as well as NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. Read more from NASA. See the YouTube video from the event here.

Please describe how the current stay-at-home guidance has changed how you do your job.

Due to the Coronavirus, Gov. Janet Mills has ordered all Maine schools closed for the remainder of the school year with classes being taught now online.  Sadly, I have had to cancel all plans for our 22nd  Annual Space Day Maine events which were scheduled for the first week in May of this year. The good news is that next year in May, we will hold our 22nd Annual Space Day events in their entirety. 

Please share anything else you would like to tell us.

Over the years, I have met so many wonderful people who have worked in STEM careers, many of whom continue to participate in Space Day activities, year after year.  In 2004, I was introduced to a CAP AEM and the rest is history!

Space Day Maine serves thousands of K-12 youth through STEM exploration.

 

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