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Newtown businesswoman inspires STEM bill approved by U.S. House

A bill authored by Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty has passed the House on a nearly unanimous vote. 


The Women in Aerospace Education Act is meant to strengthen the American aerospace industry by enhancing K-12 education initiatives to encourage women and girls’ participation in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. 


Under existing law, Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grants are used by universities to cover the cost of STEM-degree students who go on to teach in rural or lower-income school districts.  Esty’s bill would encourage universities applying for Noyce grants to incorporate aerospace engineering working and learning experiences at the National Laboratories and NASA Centers into their teacher training experience. These teachers, once certified, will then enter classrooms with first-hand knowledge of the impact aerospace projects have on our lives and share that inspiration with their students.


Kelley Johnson, Founder & President of Doors to Explore Inc. in Newtown, says this bill rolls out a ‘welcome mat’ to women in aerospace.  The start up business provides an online resource for young people to explore STEM careers.  She says it’s important that young women have early access to research opportunities early in their career to build the skills and confidence toward positions of greater responsibility.


Esty spoke on the House floor in support of the bill.  She noted that aerospace companies such as Praxair and United Technologies have told her for years that they are concerned with the aging workforce.  She added the shortages of skilled workers could force the companies to relocate.


Esty also talked about Johnson, a member of her STEM advisory board.  Johnson worked at NASA, designing components for two satellites.  Esty says an early exposure to computer science and work experience at NASA has led Johnson to share that insight with a new generation of students.  Esty wants to make Johnson's experiences available to all students.