Newtown Friends School Students Prepare for Trip to Mars

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STEM project to be launched at Bucks County, Pa. school with corporate, U.S. national lab, and community support.

Newtown Friends School has embarked on a new and exciting initiative to help teach its students about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. The initiative, entitled “Lift Off to Mars,” is being organized by a new nonprofit, The Project for STEM Competitiveness. The pilot program is supported by local business leaders and scientists from Enterra Solutions, LLC, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

“This new STEM initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to provide an innovative and challenging academic program,” said Dana H. Harrison, Head of Newtown Friends School. “We are eager to bring an integrated approach to STEM education and to make this a community effort. We are particularly pleased with the cooperation we are receiving from our corporate and governmental partners.”

Educators at the school are excited to develop curriculum that encourages young people to become proficient and interested in STEM disciplines. Using the "National Academy of Sciences: A Framework for Teaching K-12 Science" and its companion, "Next Generation Science Standards," as benchmarks, this program will provide students with a unique and rich learning experience.

The immediate goals of the pilot program are for students to:

  • Apply physics, chemistry and space science to further an understanding of the interrelationships of STEM disciplines.
  • Apply knowledge of science concepts, such as speed and power, motion and stability, forces and interactions, and environmental sustainability.
  • Understand and apply mathematical skills and concepts, such as proportions and ratios, graphing data, multi-digit computation, and functions.
  • Plan and manage activities to develop solutions and complete complex projects.
  • Use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively.

“There’s a crisis in STEM education and, thus, the competitiveness of U.S. students in a global marketplace,” observed Stephen DeAngelis, President and CEO of Enterra Solutions, LLC. He expressed the feelings of other participants when he said, “We want to move forward with a solution to that crisis. You can’t begin STEM education too early, and we believe the Lift Off to Mars program will prove both educational, exciting and we hope it will generate interest in students to pursue degrees and careers in STEM disciplines.”

DeAngelis described the long-term goals of the project, which are in line with STEM education goals identified by the National Research Council of the National Academies.

They include:

  • Growing community partnerships that provide middle school students with mentors, opportunities, and real-world experiences in STEM disciplines.
  • Expanding the number of students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields and broaden the participation of women and minorities in those fields of study.
  • Expanding the STEM-capable workforce and broadening the participation of women and minorities in that workforce.
  • Increasing STEM literacy for all students, including those who do not pursue STEM-related careers or additional study in the STEM disciplines.

Enterra Solutions, LLC will provide students access to its Cognitive Computing environment which will perform artificial intelligence-based computational analytics on the Mars program – modeling and simulating the real-world aspects of the mission.

Representatives from Lockheed Martin will provide students with an exciting look at its Orion Program. Engineers from the program are building the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated, deep space exploration. Orion will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit, such as asteroids, the moon, and eventually Mars, and return them safely back to Earth. Michael Bradshaw, CIO of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business, described the corporation’s interest in the Lift Off to Mars Program: “Advancing STEM education is a critical focus of Lockheed Martin. Anytime we have the chance to inspire students with real-life, exciting examples of opportunities in the STEM field, we eagerly participate.”

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) will mentor the program from its long experience in STEM education and will make its world-class research and scientists available to students throughout the project. PPPL is instrumental in supporting the creation of the curriculum, integrating other governmental agencies, such as NASA, and providing experimentation structure, guidance and support for the program.

Andrew Zwicker, Head of Science Education at PPPL, said “The best way for students to learn science is to do science. This new program is a unique opportunity through its project-based learning approach to begin to develop the skills needed to be a part of the 21st century scientific workforce.”

About Newtown Friends School
Newtown Friends School ( is a pre-k through eighth grade co-educational day school located at the edge of the George School campus in Newtown, Bucks County. NFS was founded in 1948 by Newtown Friends Meeting and emphasizes academic excellence, Quaker values, creative and critical thinking, collaboration and community service.

About Enterra Solutions, LLC
Enterra Solutions, LLC (Enterra) is a cognitive computing firm that utilizes its Cognitive Reasoning Platform™ to perform big data semantic and computational Analytics and Insights for companies and governmental agencies in the Consumer Products/Retail, Pharmaceutical and Chemical and National Security Industries. For more information about Enterra Solutions, please visit

About Lockheed Martin Corporation
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 116,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2012 were $47.2 billion. For additional information, visit

About the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is a collaborative national center for fusion energy research. The Laboratory advances the coupled fields of fusion energy and plasma physics research, and, with collaborators, is developing the scientific understanding and key innovations needed to realize fusion as an energy source for the world. An associated mission is providing the highest quality of scientific education.

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Rose Strong
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