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How did the NASA STEM Program trigger curiosity and keep Jadyn Worthington on track?

By Nazrul Khandaker

Jadyn Worthington, now a senior majoring in computer science at University of Delaware, attended the York College-hosted NASA STEM Program at the age of 10 and acknowledged the impact the program had on him at a young age with great sincerity.

Beyond excelling in academia, Jadyn is a trailblazer utilizing his expertise in Machine Learning (ML) to inspire and educate the next generation. Jadyn keeps quite busy, and is involved in various campus activities and pioneering educational programs for elementary school kids, introducing them to the wonders of ML and paving the way for many to opt in to further STEM learning.

What is the NASA STEM Program?

The NASA-SEMAA K1-12 (Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy) program was introduced to the greater York community in 1999 with the help of Congressman Meeks to foster STEM education, engage underrepresented community children in hands-on learning activities, and create a pathway for involved students to plan on undertaking STEM courses and eventually become scientists. The SEMAA program ended in 2015 and was succeeded by MUREP (Minority University Research and Education Project) Aerospace Academy. York administered both SEMAA and MAA and graduated over 30,000 students over the years.

Like Jadyn, many NASA STEM graduates from York College chose to pursue STEM majors and as a result, became STEM graduates and professionals as well. Saintedym Sandy Wills, a six grade SEMAA participant in 2000, became the program’s first-known PhD degree recipient from Duke University in 2018. An immunologist, Dr. Saintedym Wills is the Technical Director for Immunology Research and Development at Laboratory Corporation of America.

York not only offered STEM education to the children, it also tracked students once they left the program. The longitudinal tracking of NASA STEM graduates often brought to light inspiring and exemplary reflections from these tracked students, and York made it an effort to share these with the greater York Community on a regular basis. These graduates are stars and their success stories need to be conveyed in a manner where incoming generations of youths can follow their footsteps, draw inspiration, and participate in an active STEM learning community.

The program director Nazrul Khandaker reached out to Jadyn recently and received a marvelous response to share with the community children:

Reflection on My Journey with NASA-SEMAA: Fueling Passion for STEM at a Young Age

By Jadyn Worthington

What I Learned

The curriculum, meticulously designed by NASA, introduced me to a world of inquiry-based learning. Each session was a gateway to understanding national science, math, and technology standards, connected profoundly to NASA's mission directorates. Through engaging in projects and activities such as the Summer of Innovation, Engineering Design Challenges, learning mathematics, and learning information about planets in our solar system, I discovered the thrill of applying theoretical knowledge to practical endeavors while doing some of the hands-on work.

Motivation and Impact

Motivation and Impact: The guidance and mentorship provided by Dr. Nazrul Khandaker within the NASA-SEMAA program were instrumental in shaping my aspirations. Dr. Khandaker's dedication to fostering a passion for STEM children like me inspired me to strive for excellence. His vision and commitment to educational outreach resonated deeply with me and motivated me to pursue a path in computer science.

As a senior majoring in computer science today, I reflect on the pivotal role that the NASA-SEMAA program played in instilling the fundamental values of curiosity, problem-solving, and innovation within me. The exposure to cutting-edge technologies and the emphasis on rigorous STEM curriculum enhancement set the stage for my academic and professional journey.

The Journey Forward

Jadyn continued his reflections by saying, as I stride toward the horizon of new beginnings, my commitment to innovation and scientific exploration remains. Every accomplishment attained from high school to my senior year as a Computer Science major at the University of Delaware is the resultant of the foundations laid during my time with NASA-SEMAA.

From pioneering initiatives supporting campus communities to contributing to research in advancing solar cell technology, my journey reverberates with the principles instilled in me at a young age. The seeds of curiosity, problem-solving, and a drive for innovation, developed by the immersive STEM exposure of the SEMAA program, continue to guide my trajectory. They form the bedrock upon which I aspire to build a future STEM career with groundbreaking contributions to the world of science and technology.

As I stand at this juncture, I am resolute in my pursuit: to push the boundaries of innovation, unravel the mysteries of science, and contribute meaningfully to the ever-evolving landscape of discovery. Looking ahead to my graduation next semester, I am enthusiastic about continuing to leverage my roles within various campus organizations to further enhance our campus environment. I'm committed to driving positive change and fostering an inclusive atmosphere that supports every individual's growth and success.

Thank you, Jadyn and heartiest congratulations, to you for successfully transitioning from a 4th grade NASA STEM student to passionate and forward-thinking Computer Science major with a strong focus on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotics.

York greatly acknowledges the generous support of Con Edison, AT&T, and National Grid, which enabled both SEMAA and MUREP to offer state-of-the-art STEM education to the greater York community for close to two decades. Con Edison has been a steadfast financial supporter of the previous SEMAA Program since 2007 and continued providing strategic support to the York-hosted STEM Program.

About York College

York College enriches lives and enables students to grow as passionate, engaged learners with the confidence to realize their intellectual and human potential as individuals and global citizens. With more than 60 academic majors, York College attracts undergraduate and graduate students from across the five boroughs of New York City as well as Long Island, Westchester County and internationally. More on the NASA-STEM program at York College .