Blogs  |  6.28.2021

Alumni Profile: Asa Arnold

Challenger Center

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Name: Asa Arnold

Education: Appointee, Air Force Academy Class of 2025

Which of our Challenger Learning Centers did you visit?

The Challenger Learning Center of Richland County School District One in Columbia, South Carolina

When did you visit a Challenger Learning Center?

I visited the Challenger Learning Center at various times throughout elementary and middle school. One time was through a University Summer Camp, another time was with a direct summer camp enrollment and then the 3rd time was a Middle School field trip.

What do you remember most from your experience?

My favorite memories of my time at the Challenger Learning Center were the space simulation which was a between ground control and a space station. The flight simulators taught me a lot about aircraft and flight.

Have you always been interested in STEM?

Yes, always. My favorite class during my senior year was AP Physics.

Did the visit to the Challenger Learning Center affect your decision to pursue a STEM degree or career? If yes, how?

Yes, the Challenger Learning Center provided a fundamental view on what STEM careers have to offer and played a role in my decision to pursue a career in STEM as an Air Force Pilot. The Director at my local Center took the time to meet with me personally and from her, I learned a lot about what was happening in my local community in aviation. For example, she told me about the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation’s Restoration project on a WWII B25 bomber.  Thanks to the Director, I spent two years on the restoration crew learning new skills and meeting great people with similar interests. I think I will have a lifelong interest in aircraft restoration.

Do you use STEM lessons/principles in your education every day? If so, how?

As a student, I use STEM principles daily in my classes. My district offers a highly challenging STEM magnet program for which I was selected, and I will graduate high school with a strong STEM focus. Part of my high school program was completing two peer reviewed research projects, which I submitted and presented to the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science.

Why is STEM education so critical at a young age?

STEM education is important at a young age because it helps kids apply hands on critical thinking skills leading to a better understanding of the world around them.

What advice would you give to students who want to pursue STEM degrees or careers?

My biggest advice is to plan years in advance and map key activities to enhance STEM engagement. Keep a look out in your community for opportunities, including during summer. STEM can be daunting (math can be scary), but do not feel like you must be a genius to challenge yourself and learn.

In one sentence, how would you describe your Challenger Learning Center experience?

The Challenger Learning Center was an exciting experience that combined innovation and hands-on learning.

Why should people support Challenger Learning Center’s STEM programs?

It exposes science and technology to kids that do not have access, through public school field trips. That may sound simple but to a child that has no access, it can be life changing.