Forum participants spent Thursday morning at the Challenger Learning Center on the campus of The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, participating in team building challenges and experiencing the Voyage to Mars simulation that included working both in Mission Control and the Mars transport vehicle.
Challenger Centers are non-profit, informal science education centers whose beginnings came as a direct result of the Challenger space shuttle tragedy that occurred in January of 1986. The surviving family members wanted to create a living memorial in honor of the Challenger crew. Their ideas spawned centers of science education that would be used to excite young people to study science, math, technology, and engineering (STEM concepts) in their exploration of learning.
The Challenger STEM Learning Center is formally aligned under the College of Education and as such has formed strong relationships with both the University's Teacher Preparation Academy and regional school systems. Approximately ten thousand students visit each year participating in simulated space missions that introduce and reinforce real-world applications of science principles and concepts discussed in their classrooms. In addition, the Center holds numerous teacher professional development workshops that strengthen math, science and technology concepts for teachers.