Newsmaker Q&A: Dr. Stephanie M.G. Wright

President and CEO of Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation

By Jeff Brown, News Editor
Dover Post
Posted June 15, 2010 @ 12:32PM

Dr. Stephanie M.G. Wright

DOVER, Delaware -

Dr. Stephanie M.G. Wright incorporated the Delaware AeroSpace and Education Foundation in 1990 with the idea of introducing children to information about the Earth’s environment, mathematics, space science and technology. Today the foundation operates out of a 40-acre campus in Big Oak Park, Smyrna, has completed its first project, an Environmental Outpost and observatory, and is working on a second building, the $7.2 million Innovation Technology Exploration Center.

While teaching at the Stanton Middle School, Wilmington, in 1985, Wright was selected as one of Delaware’s two participants in the Teacher in Space program. Invited to watch the launch of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986, she was watching with other teachers and hundreds of school children when the shuttle exploded.

Q Why did you try out for the Teacher in Space program?
A I wanted to bring attention to teachers and the wonderful job they do, how they impact children and families, not only in Delaware by throughout the United States. And, obviously, to ride on the space shuttle.

Q What was the genesis behind DASEF?
A The next day [after the Challenger accident] I was back at school, talking to the student body, giving them inspiration and motivation. You want to inspire and show that good can come from tragedy and to move forward to accomplish better things.
From tragedy, people’s lives can change and if you want to be positive you can make a difference. When I was giving presentations to schools and civic groups I could see aerospace, space science and earth science were inspirational to children of all ages.

Q Why did you establish DASEF in Smyrna?
A At first we moved around to a lot of schools. But as the program grew, we knew we needed a permanent facility and we wanted it in the middle of the state so we could serve all districts and all people. The site in Big Oak Park is perfect; schools in Delmar or Hockessin can reach us within an hour and a half.

Q Why do many of your programs involve the word “Destination”?
A That word is the key. We wanted to build our environmental outpost as a destination for children and their families. We wanted them to learn more about the Earth and its space in the universe.
Our various academies (Destination: Ocean and Destination: Dinosaur) are held at the outpost for younger children and the rest (Destination: Moon, Destination: Mars, etc.) are at the University of Delaware.

Q What is the Innovation Technology Exploration Center?
A When it’s finished, it will be an educational facility that will focus on standard-based lessons and activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It will be all hands-on training, focusing on thought processes and problem solving for young people. They’ll get activities and scenarios they have to think through and blend content areas just like they would in real life.
It’s important to focus on that so people will be interested, prepared and motivated to go into those fields.
We’ll also have plants on the roof, and photovoltaic and geothermal systems, demonstrating how the public can use green technology.

Q Why is having a knowledge of science so important for children today?
A Whether they get into scientific fields or not, they need to understand what we do to the Earth affects future generations. If they understand science and what happens, understand the principles of engineering, it will help them to be better citizens.
It’s important that children understand those concepts and apply them to their lives.

Q What do you do to relax?
A I love gardening, and I play tennis and read a lot. I spend the best times with my family; I love to be with them. I also love to fix up the outpost and do gardening there.

Q What is it about you that might surprise people if they knew it?
A A lot of people assume I’m an extrovert, but actually I’m an introvert. But when you have a deep passion, no matter how inhibited you may be, it’s infectious.
[Our motto is] “Wisdom begins with wonder.” With our ITEC building and all we’re doing, we want to bring joy to everyone who comes in. It will be a blend of the arts and the sciences, with a huge focus on looking at Earth and preserving it for future generations.

Email Jeff Brown at jeff.brown@doverpost.com.
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