Candidate Platforms for Director of Educational Outreach

Basu, Palash

I was born in the beautiful city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1983 of Indian parents. My parents moved back to India shortly after my birth. My parents wanted me to get my school education from India and college education in the US-a best of both worlds. I completed my formal education till the higher secondary level in Calcutta, India. I come from a high school called South Point High School in Calcutta, India which houses the second highest number of students in the world. It is a highly competitive school where only the best succeed and I am proud to say that I have been a big success at South Point, which obviously played a huge part in making me the intense and challenge-seeking student that I am. I have always had an inclination in Mathematics and space studies. Books and movies on science fiction, specially the ones on space sciences are of special interest to me. Thus inferring from my academic tendencies and my space-oriented interests, it became obvious to me that I would have to be an aerospace engineer. Apart from this, I was captain of my high school class for four years. I always saw a growing leader in myself, someone willing to take the initiative and spend the energy to lead the activities of a group of individuals and achieve a goal. It was a moment of great honor and achievement for me when I was awarded the President's scholarship to study aerospace engineering at IIT from the fall of 2002. However, IIT being a small, though intense school was limiting my opportunities for self-development. So, I transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall of 2004. I have been flooded with opportunities ever since. Most importantly I have become part of Illinois Space Society and its activities. I became aware of open leadership positions at SEDS Executive Board through Illinois Space Society. In that opportunity I found exactly what I was looking for-leadership. Thus I decided to do what I am best at-grab the opportunity.

I have always been an adventurer from the very beginning, willing to carry out experiments in and about everything. I have a knack of solving problems in unconventional ways. The primal ambition to discover unconquered space renders me the motivation to be an avid enthusiast and pursue a career in space. Thus a position at the Executive Board means a win-win situation for me. I get to satiate my hunger for knowledge about space and also exercise my leadership skills.

Goals for 2005:
We as a civilization are at the crossroads of a major space exploration revolution-the personal spaceflight revolution, as triggered by the X-Prize victory of SpaceShipOne. Thus there could not be a more appropriate and exciting time for me to be actively involved in promoting exploration and development of space. To reach out to students and teachers at the high school and junior high school level would be an ideal way to achieve this.

As far my experiences in different parts of the world go, the average public is enthusiastic about space. From the Indian village boy who survives his month on a dollar to a billionaire like Microsoft founder Paul Allen-all of us want to know what is there in space, how is it like up there and where we stand in the vastness of the universe. However there is a lack of knowledge about space among the masses. We, as an organization thus need take it upon ourselves to reach out to as many people as possible about what constitutes space and how it can be explored further.

The ideal way to arouse interest among junior high and high students is to include short courses in space sciences in their curriculum and space-related activities in their extra curriculum. Short courses in space sciences could be arranged through NASA's educational outreach programs for students and teachers as well through distributing textbooks on space sciences. We would prepare these textbook materials through common resources like public libraries, worldwide web etc. Materials would also be prepared for high school teachers in order to arouse their enthusiasm regarding space. Once they are excited about space and are educated through our materials, they would catalyze the spread of knowledge among their students. They would be a direct influence on the students in setting up high school chapters of SEDS. Extracurricular activities related to space like model rocketry and design competitions would be arranged for the students. The results of these activities would then be presented at an annual space fair around the school's county or district, wherein all the schools would participate. The annual space fair would also have trivia quizzes and space-related debates among school teams on its agenda. Students should be encouraged to take part in NASA's educational outreach programs. Moreover, the high schools would be assigned and provided funds for taking students and teachers on field trips to space museums, planetaria and observatories. I am sure the educational outreach program will create greater awareness and enthusiasm among students about space and encourage the next generation of space explorers.

The position of the Director of Educational Outreach is significant in the SEDS organization and is associated with a lot of challenging responsibilities. The responsibilities are attractive to me and I would make my best endeavors to fulfill them. I dream of seeing SEDS being equivalent in reputation to AIAA one day and I hope there will be significant progress towards that dream under my leadership.