How to STEM the Tide of Transportation Accidents

By Beverly Drake

NTSB Staff at the the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo in Washington, DCNTSB supports STEM!  On April 26 and 27, NTSB staff participated in the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo in Washington, DC. Started in 2012, the festival’s mission is to re-invigorate the interest of the nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and to encourage them to pursue STEM careers. This year’s festival was a huge success, drawing over 300,000 participants! It was one of the largest celebrations of science and engineering in the country, inspiring thousands of people of all ages to explore careers in STEM.

At our booth, we showed how NTSB investigators use STEM in their jobs and highlighted the role of STEM fields in NTSB’s accident investigation work.  Staff from our Offices of Aviation Safety, Highway Safety, and Research and Engineering gave hands-on explanations of flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders, occupant safety systems in transportation , material science, and laser scanning. We also showed equipment damaged in accidents and demonstrated a “black box pinger.” The most popular question seemed to be “why is that black box orange?” (to increase their visibility), and visitors to our booth asked many good questions about how we use the different STEM fields in our everyday work.

My colleagues and I are were really excited to talk to so many young people who are interested in STEM careers. They were filled with wonder and curiosity about STEM, and sharing our mission—to find out what caused an accident to avoid it again in the future—seemed to encourage their interest in STEM fields.

We hope that some of them will return to the Expo in the future as NTSB investigators bringing their excitement for STEM to the next generation.

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