J. Parker Ragland Special to the Business Press
The Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME) unveiled the Trailblazer II, a 40-foot-long trailer containing exhibits that encourage students to pursue academic careers in STEM areas, at the Lockheed Martin Fort Worth facility on June 5. Trailblazer II will be touring Texas and giving students the opportunity to explore the science of space, energy, weather, aerodynamics and biotechnology, part of an effort to interest and engage students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM. “We’re here because we share a common mission and a common passion: STEM,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president of Lockheed Martin and general manager of the Aeronautics Operation. “TAME has led a relentless pursuit of capturing the hearts and minds of minority students to encourage them first to pursue college and then to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and math.” A large discrepancy exists in the field of engineering: the majority of the U.S. population is female, though only 12 percent of the nation’s engineers are women. Furthermore, African American, Hispanic and Native American engineers combined comprise less than 10 percent of the field. TAME aims to lessen this discrepancy and offer otherwise unavailable opportunities to students from underrepresented communities. Since 1976, TAME, a statewide nonprofit organization, has worked to enhance students’ abilities to pursue meaningful careers in science, technology, engineering and math. It has partnered with educators, businesses, the government, and families to “inform, educate, and motivate students.” By focusing its efforts toward underrepresented populations, the organization promotes diversity in STEM careers. “The Trailblazer program is a key piece of the TAME portfolio,” said Savita Raj, executive director of TAME. “Having a Trailblazer, especially one as eye-catching as this one, pull up to a school can be pretty exciting. We think that it will even spark an interest in those kids who are too cool to care about science and engineering.” “Eighteen years ago … I remember looking at maps,” Raj explained to her audience, which included a group of students from the Metroplex who had participated in TAME. “Over the next 18 years, or even, I’m thinking, six years when these students graduate, I don’t know what the world will be like. It’s going to be so exciting, but how do we prepare them for that? And, it’s not a certain set of skills, but it would be a certain way of thinking – an engineering way of thinking. The TAME programs have all been designed with just that in mind, and the Trailblazer is a critical part.” The Trailblazer program was developed to target students in grades three through eight, specifically to inspire them to pursue careers in the physical sciences. “Lockheed Martin shares TAME’s vision to promote diversity in these critical career fields,” said Lauderdale. “We believe that investing in our youth will ultimately enable us to continue driving innovation, as evidenced by the F-16 and F-35 fighter jets we build at this very facility.” TAME, teaming with five large corporations including Lockheed Martin, 3M, BASF, Boeing, Shell and TAME board members, raised more than $250,000 to launch the Trailblazer II. Projections indicate that the Trailblazers will reach out to more than 200,000 students while traveling over 300,000 miles visiting schools throughout Texas.