Students on Florida’s Space Coast are no strangers to rocket launches. But these spectacular events may now have even more meaning to middle-schoolers from three Brevard County, FL, schools, who participated in the January Space in the Community program made possible by a grant from Harris Corporation.

Space in the Community is an immersive program developed by the Space Foundation to inform and inspire students about space and reinforce the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—or STEM—education. Harris has collaborated with the Space Foundation to interest younger students in considering STEM careers and has sponsored several Space in the Community programs in Brevard County and Colorado Springs.

The January program in Brevard County engaged STEM-focused students in designing and launching their own rockets using straws and Pitsco launchers. Students and their families were invited to a Community Night, where they were able to meet former astronaut Col. Robert Springer, USMC (Ret.), who shared photos from space, discussed his career, and described what is it like to live on board a space vehicle. Community Night attendees were able to explore several Space Foundation activity stations, including one with a remote-controlled mini Mars rover.

Harris also invited teachers to attend a one-day professional development program, during which the Space Foundation discussed how STEM activities can be incorporated into daily lesson plans. The teachers who attended toured the Harris’ Global Innovation Center, which highlights the advanced technology solutions the company designs and delivers.

Irene Lockwood, communications manager for Harris Space and Intelligence Systems, has attended several Harris STEM events and participated in them first-hand.

“Watching students’ faces light up and show real interest in each STEM activity is extremely rewarding,” says Harris’ Irene Lockwood, communications manager for Harris Space and Intelligence Systems. “I believe we are making a real difference in students’ lives—they can’t get enough of the astronauts and their stories.”

Over the last decade, Harris has dedicated more than $22 million to support STEM education projects and initiatives on the elementary, middle, high school and university levels. Harris employees across the U.S. have volunteered thousands of hours to STEM education support in local classrooms, and the company has hosted hundreds of students at Harris facilities.