We are great explorers, we are an exploring species.
~ Lori Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA
Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back but rock star will.i.am is making science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) rock-and-roll-cool with a S.Y.S.T.E.M., stimulating youth around science technology engineering mathematics.
Coinciding with the launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the space agency invited the musician and technology advocate to share his enthusiasm during NASA Tweetup on November 25 and 26, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Science is Rock and Roll
The Black Eyed Peas front man told 150 NASA Twitter followers (including me!), who traveled from 10 countries and 37 states, “I realized when it comes to science and pop culture most people don’t think it’s cool.”
Which is why will.i.am teamed up with Dean Kamen, inventor and founder of FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The musician watched the televised FIRST competitions and saw amazing things kids ages 6 to 18-years-old were doing with computers and building robots. He wanted to get involved by creating a science and technology-based television show but Kamen warned him there wasn’t a way a major television network would air it because “they don’t think science and robotics is cool enough.”
will.i.am responded to Kamen’s skepticism, “Maybe you guys have the wrong people doing it,” and purchased airtime on ABC to air i.am.FIRST- Science is Rock and Roll, which aired Sunday, August 14, 2011.
“You have to take risks you have to do things out of the norm to do things out of the norm,” will.i.am told NASA Tweetup participants and added he gathered his peers and friends to help with Science is Rock and Roll to “shine a light why sciences are important.”
NASA Reaches Out will.i.am
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden soon reached out to the musician and invited him to get involved in continuing STEM education. He was introduced to Leland Melvin, astronaut and NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education, and Lars Perkins, co-founder of Picasa.
Coinciding with the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012, will.i.am will release a song called “Reach for the Stars.”
“Let’s reach for the stars. When children sing that it shows you that the sky is not the limit,” the singer said and added, “Stop saying that. You’re lying to them when you say ‘sky’s the limit.’ You know, ‘let’s reach for the stars’ the light, energy and connectivity to keep moving forward past the things we’ve already accomplished.”
America’s Youth Needs a New System
S.Y.S.T.E.M. emerged because “STEM isn’t a cool word,” will.i.am said, “America’s youth, they need a new system.”
Leland Melvin pointed out, when people think about STEM fields, they should also think about arts and music because “There’s math in music. You need to know math for music.”
“Without science technology engineering and mathematics we would have no music industry,” the Black Eyed Peas star said, “Moving STEM forward you need art and that’s STEAM, science technology engineering math and arts.”
will.i.am also challenged the group to keep science and technology relevant. “We have to help educate popular culture to remember where these tools come from. If it wasn’t for NASA research we wouldn’t have any of these laptops, any of these smartphones. I wouldn’t be able to make music off computers and share them around the world off computers if it wasn’t for the research that NASA did.
“Popular culture needs to be reminded about that…this is cool, we don’t treat it like it’s cool enough.”