Former astronaut Lt. Col Duane “Digger” Carey (Ret.) shares stories about space travel with students in Colorado Springs.

STEM Program Brings Space to our Communities

Jan 13, 2020

It was a simple statement during a day filled with activities and information on spaceflight, aviation and aerodynamics. But it was music to the ears of an aerospace industry that is focused on the next generation of employees.

“I want to become an engineer,” student Felson Assogba said during an L3Harris-sponsored Space in the Community (SITC) event in Prince George’s County, Maryland, last week. “Either electrical or aerospace engineering.”

That kind of enthusiasm is exactly what the industry needs to attract the next generation of astronauts, and the scientists and engineers who will send them to the ever-expanding heights of space exploration. And it’s the reason L3Harris supports SITC, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) partnership with the Space Foundation that connects with students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The events are geared toward inspiring students in a hands-on, active setting. The Maryland program, which included activities at six different schools in Prince George's County, was the most recent installment, following similar events in Colorado and Florida in 2019.

A highlight of SITC is the opportunity to visit with space celebrities like retired Col. Paul S. Lockhart, a former astronaut who appeared at the Maryland event, and retired Lt. Col. Duane “Digger” Carey, another former astronaut who participated in Colorado Springs. They ramp up the excitement for students eager to meet humans who have been to space.

L3Harris Funds Space Foundation STEM Programs

L3Harris Technologies funds Space Foundation STEM programs at six Prince George’s County, Maryland, schools in January 2020.


Space exploration is just one facet of the future of American space activity – the industry is working on innovative technology for GPS, weather sensing, national security and other applications as we speak.

L3Harris sponsors Space in the Community because it is part of the company’s mission. It’s just one piece of companywide STEM outreach that is substantial in both financial investment and employee volunteering.

L3Harris donated more than $22 million to educational institutions around the country to support STEM-related programs over the last 15 years. L3Harris employees volunteered more than 11,000 hours for STEM outreach, impacting an estimated 37,000 students in the same timeframe.

The aerospace industry sees an elevated demand for employees in the coming decades, especially those with advanced engineering, scientific and technical abilities. Investment in STEM is with an eye toward ensuring some of today’s best and brightest students become some of our excellent employees in the future.

“We have 20,000 scientists and engineers that we’re going to have to replace someday,” L3Harris Senior Communications Manager Kristin Jones said. “So we need to make sure that the next generation of students can fill their shoes.”

That is true not only for L3Harris space programs, but for all the areas of innovative technology, initiatives like spectrum superiority, actionable intelligence, warfighter effectiveness, and safe and secure skies.  

Rarely has the need for those abilities been more acute for activities in space. The U.S. is on the cusp of returning humans to the moon and even going to Mars, ushering in a new and exciting chapter in space travel. Students in school today will be among those getting our astronauts to these corners of the solar system – or venturing there themselves.

One of them might be 10-year-old Xander Pitlock, who participated in the Colorado Springs event. He likes space so much he makes it a daily encounter.

“Every year I get a space calendar about space, and it’s really cool,” Pitlock told Fox21 news.

Some day Xander might be on that calendar himself.