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Congressman Higgins & Superintendent Cash Announce Buffalo Public School Students Receive Invite to White House STEM Event

Hamlin Park Students’ Spaceflight Experiment Earns White House Attention; Students Will Head to Washington, D.C. for January 13 Event

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and Buffalo Public School Superintendent Kriner Cash, joined by Hamlin Park Academy Principal Elizabeth Giangreco, teachers, students and school board members, announced a special invitation for select Hamlin Park students to participate in a White House Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) event in Washington, DC on January 13, 2016. 

“Advancing access and interest in STEM is critical as we prepare students for today’s workforce opportunities, shape inquisitive minds that can help to unlock tomorrow’s discoveries and build our community and economy,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the Congressional STEM Education Caucus.  “We are thrilled that the work of these Buffalo School Students has earned the attention of the White House and hope it inspires them and other youth to pursue STEM careers.”

Buffalo Public School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said, “Our extraordinary student winners and dedicated teachers at Hamlin Park Academy should be well-recognized for their exceptional achievement and for advancing STEM education in our District and across the country.”

The invite was extended to Buffalo Public School students who recently won a competition through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and will partner with NASA to see their experiment tested in Outer Space.  The female middle school students’ project “Tuber Growth in Microgravity” will test the ability for potatoes to grow at the International Space Station, earning the students the nickname “Spud Launchers.” 

The winning team was among 310 students from 10 public and charter schools in the The Buffalo Niagara Coalition of Schools, organized by the WNY STEM Hub. The program was supported locally by 18 corporate and community sponsors with in-kind support from the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.  The Student Space Flight Experiments (SSEP) is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks, LLC.  This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks, LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

After learning about the students’ project through WNY STEM Hub, a nonprofit committed to encouraging STEM learning, Congressman Higgins reached out to the White House suggesting the girls’ efforts might be worthy of inclusion in the President’s State of the Union Address.  Just two days later the White House responded indicating they are very interested in the story and would like to invite the students to the Fourth Annual State of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Address (SoSTEM) on January 13th

The White House event will feature Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as additional special guest who will highlight exciting advances in science and innovation. 

Michelle Kavanaugh, President of WNY STEM said, "The Hamlin Park team of young female scientists, along with hundreds of their peers in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, have had an intense involvement in a very real spaceflight research experience that is not a simulation. They serve as evidence and inspiration that the Buffalo Niagara region can prepare the best U.S. scientists and engineers for our nation's future. We are indebted to Congressman Higgins for his commitment to STEM learning and for this opportunity to connect these young people with other STEM-minded students at our nation's capital."

Buffalo Public Schools in conjunction with WNY STEM Hub and its partners offer various programs to provide STEM-based curriculum and activities for Buffalo students, including an annual STEM Week program. 

Today STEM careers make up 20% of all US jobs employing 26 million people.  While women currently constitute 48% of the total US workforce, they hold just 24% of the U.S. STEM jobs.  In 2014 Congressman Higgins announced nearly $3.9 million federal grant for the Buffalo Public Schools to support coordinated efforts to better educate and train students through career-focused curriculum with an emphasis on STEM.