• May 04, 2016


With all the emphasis lately on STEM-related fields as viable career paths it’s worth noting that, with regard to preparing young people for the future, the United States military is among the most effective training grounds, turning out large numbers of disciplined, well-trained professionals each and every year.

With that in mind, we’re happy to report that Discovery Education has teamed-up with the United States Navy to offer Navy Stem, a collection of free, online-based interactive lesson plans specifically designed for grades 9 through 12. From the physics of flight to the engineering of future ships, it’s an engaging and valuable resource with an emphasis on careers.

Lesson plans are geared to Common Core Math, Next Generations Science, and ISTE Standards.

Check it out for yourself on the official Navy STEM website.

And to help us keep you informed about other great free educational programs and resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Image: Discovery Education

Introduce Your Students to a Top Young Scientist!

  • Feb 25, 2016


Hannah Herbst was in the 7th grade, just beginning to realize her love for science and engineering, when a letter from her 9-year-old Ethiopian pen pal changed her life.

The younger girl described what it was like to live with no access to lights, a steady flow of fresh water, and other basic necessities, and Hannah was moved. As she said in a blog post, “I recognized that her situation was not unique and believed that I could use the skills I acquired to take action in an attempt to mitigate the global energy crisis.”

Inspired by a science teacher, Hannah set to work creating an energy probe prototype designed to offer a stable power source to developing countries via untapped energy from ocean currents—a brilliant accomplishment that won Hannah the title of America’s 2015 Top Young Scientist.

And seeing Hannah in action (video, below), you’ve got to believe she’s only getting started.

Do you think that meeting Hannah might change the lives of your students? Find out for yourself by signing-up for a free, live online event on Tuesday, March 8th at 1pm ET, wherein Hannah will share her unique invention, talk about her experiences in the challenge, and answer questions from students.

For more information, visit the Young Scientist Challenge website.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Explore a New World of Learning

  • Oct 16, 2015


Mars is everywhere these days, figuratively speaking. From breathtaking imagery captured by the Curiosity Rover, and growing excitement over possible evidence for Martian water, to NASA’s recent announcement of 3-part plan to put people on Mars within two decades, it’s safe to say that the red planet is having a moment.

Heck, it’s even co-starring in a hit movie with Matt Damon!

All this excitement presents teachers with a golden opportunity—a chance to present real-world  STEM application to young people who are watching scientific history play out before their eyes. Luckily, our friends at NASA Education are ready to help educators make the most of this opportunity with an exhaustive online collection of Mars-related STEM resources they call the Mars Survival Kit.

Well organized and easy to navigate, the site offers standards-based classroom projects and lesson plans for students in kindergarten through high school. And it’s all free of charge.

Check out the Mars Survival Kit for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Space Station STEM Ed

  • Sep 03, 2015


One does not have to be a rocket scientist in order to recognize that space travel is probably the greatest commercial there is for STEM. I mean, talk about an education taking you places!

But what really sells the point is the fact that it is nearly impossible to discuss any aspect of space travel without at least touching on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics involved—real-world application of STEM principles by ordinary people who once sat in classrooms just like yours.

And are not so ordinary anymore.

That’s the kind of big-picture thinking that can inspire students, and, fortunately, NASA Education is in the business of thinking big.

Which brings us to STEM on Station, NASA Education’s out-of-this-world educational web site celebrating the year-long mission to the International Space Station. Informative, timely, and easy to use, the site is packed with free learning resources, including a large collection of STEM-based lesson plans for grades K-12.

As with space itself, there is lots to discover. So visit STEM on Station today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Meet a Teacher Who Proves that Math-Makes-it-Work

  • May 28, 2015


Chris Oonk, 27, had been teaching engineering at Ashley Ridge High School in Charleston, South Carolina for less than a year when he and the students in his engineering club decided to enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest, which is dedicated to encouraging students to solve local problems using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

And solve they did, developing an early warning system designed to help drivers navigate their way around flooded streets in their coastal city (watch the project video, below). The project has earned Oonk and his students a number of honors, including the DIRECTV Math Makes-it-Work prize, which includes $25,000 toward further development of their technology. They hope to have an app for the early warning system next year.

Chris was kind enough to share a little about himself with us, along with some of what he’s learned along the way to winning the prize:

Chris Oonk: I’m originally from Rochester, NY and attended Clarkson University where I majored in Mechanical Engineering. During my junior year of school I started tutoring others in math and discovered my passion for teaching. After I finished my undergraduate degree I went on to get a Master’s degree in Mathematics Education. This is my first year teaching at Ashley Ridge High School and third overall. I consider myself truly lucky to be working with such a great group of faculty, staff, and students.

When I arrived at the school, I immediately noticed a passion for engineering in many of my students and an unmet need for a club/extracurricular activity to allow that passion to flourish. I started an engineering club that was made up of students from various grade levels and backgrounds. We began looking for a project that would pique the interest of the students and allow us to work toward the betterment of our community.

The engineering classes offered at Ashley Ridge are part of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, and I receive weekly email blasts from PLTW regarding news, events, project opportunities, etc. It was here that I first noticed the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, and the students jumped at the opportunity to participate.

How did you arrive at the decision to take-on the challenge of flood warning?

I moved down to Charleston this past August after teaching in Columbia, SC the previous two years. It didn’t take me long to realize that flooding was a serious issue for this coastal city. Two weeks after I moved I found myself driving through a flooded area with no idea of how to navigate around it. Looking down a couple of the streets, I saw water more than half way up the tires of the cars unfortunate enough to be parked there.

It was from this experience that the students and I decided that developing a system capable of detecting where flooding would occur, warning motorists, and then safely rerouting them would be an invaluable tool. As a large tourist destination, there are also a number of drivers that are unfamiliar with the flooding issues that Charleston faces. It was for this reason we determined that the rerouting feature would be an integral part of our system.

Once that decision was made, what were the group dynamics, i.e., distribution of work and responsibility? And what role did you play as teacher throughout this process?

The students divided themselves into three main groups: Construction, Programming, and Website/Phone Applications. Since it was a small group there was some overlap between responsibilities. As a teacher, I tried to serve as a guide and give them as much autonomy as possible. With an open-ended problem such as this, there is no one correct answer, so I was able to give them the freedom to explore different possibilities.

Any interesting anecdotes from this journey? Was there an “a-ha!” moment for the students?

One thing I learned for team projects going forward is to always have snacks on hand. There’s a pretty strong correlation between food and productivity. I could also probably write a book on the different uses of duct tape.

The students were very innovative when it came to dealing with our financial constraints. We had our original design, we looked at our budget, and then we basically had to replace every component with a cheaper one. When it came to simulating rainfall or waterproofing our sensor, I was amazed at their ingenuity and the solutions that they developed.

 How has your experience with these students affected you, and also them?

One of the great things about this project is that it is a completely different dynamic from the general classroom environment. As a team we all were able to share in the triumphs, laughs, and learning that occur when a close knit group spends countless hours working together on a project. We all shared in the frustrations and setbacks, but learned how to overcome them to keep moving forward. Being able to observe this team of students from different backgrounds come together to accomplish great things and also form lasting friendships was a truly eye-opening and rewarding experience.

I believe this project allowed students to grow both academically and individually. The team played off of each others’ strengths and weaknesses well, and each one was always willing to help a fellow student with any problems they were having. Students also adapted to different roles and responsibilities very well, since so many of them were used to having the lead role on group projects.

And what about the flood-warning project, where does it stand now, and what is its future?

Currently we are working on optimizing our device and improving our website and phone app. Our hope is to get our design to a point where it is practical, cost-efficient, and able to be implemented in downtown Charleston. Beyond that we hope to share our design in other areas facing similar issues with flooding. We owe a big debt of gratitude to DIRECTV and the Math Makes it Work prize, because none of this would be possible without their support.

 DIRECTV is a big believer in STEM learning, especially with regard to math as a basis for organized thinking and problem-solving. What are your thoughts on the importance of STEM, and especially math, for today’s students and their futures?

Looking ahead, knowledge of STEM principles will be invaluable for today’s students regardless of what endeavors they pursue. The global marketplace is becoming more and more technologically driven, yet the type of organized thinking and problem-solving found in STEM areas seem to be receiving less emphasis than ever before. The shortage of students interested in these areas stems from a variety of issues, from a lack of awareness of STEM careers and few opportunities to work on real-world problems and social stigmas (such as only male “nerds” or “geeks” are interested in math).

I believe students need to be encouraged and challenged in the STEM areas at an early age and given opportunities to work on projects that are meaningful to them. I am truly thankful that DIRECTV and Samsung recognize the importance of STEM and have given the opportunity of a lifetime to my students. It is through projects such as this that students will develop an understanding and appreciation of STEM and be able to “Solve for Tomorrow.”


For more inspiring teacher stories, as well as news and information about free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

 —Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

25 Years of Exploration and Wonder

  • Apr 23, 2015


It was 25 years ago today that the Hubble Space Telescope took off for orbit as a passenger aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, carrying with it our hopes and dreams for an unprecedented view of the cosmos.

And the results, as they say, speak for themselves (below).

NASA is celebrating the silver anniversary of this momentous achievement and inviting teachers to do the same via a resource-packed web platform called HubbleSite, which includes a large collection of STEM-based, K-12 classroom materials, free eBooks, high-quality printable posters and much, much more.

Visit HubbleSite today.

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


STEM Education Takes Flight With NASA eClips Videos

  • Apr 03, 2015


Since its inception, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been a valued resource for teachers, sharing its vaunted expertise in math, science, engineering and other subjects via quality educational materials distributed free-of-charge.

This month, we’d like to call your attention to NASA eClips, an extensive collection of short videos exploring timely applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, topics.

The videos are engaging, well-produced, and divided into K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 categories. All are accompanied by downloadable lesson guides aligned to national standards for science, math, and technology. There’s even a “Teacher Toolbox” to help you put it all to work.

Check out the sample video below. For the rest visit NASA eClips online.

And to stay abreast of other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Our guest blogger, Connie Goshgarian, has some great advice for aspiring engineers

  • Feb 27, 2015


I have known that I wanted to be an engineer as far back as I remember. I love the challenge of solving problems and I have always been very passionate about space. I remember watching the first Apollo moon landing as a child thinking “I want to be involved in that”! I followed that passion through school working on experiments that flew on the space shuttle and into my first job out of college working on satellites.

For someone interested in engineering, there are so many options to learn today. The internet provides opportunities not just to read, but to actually do projects and to find help. You can look up information on each of the different fields of engineering. In addition, math and science teachers are often willing to put in extra effort to help an interested student. I had several such mentors growing up. Participating in things like state math contests, National Science Foundation programs and other technical functions can help increase your knowledge and also allow you to build a network of peers and mentors with similar interests. The critical thing to keep in mind is to follow your passion. If you want to do something, you will find a way, and people willing to help. Enthusiasm is contagious.

At DIRECTV, the thing I enjoy most is the opportunity to come up with innovative solutions to challenging tasks. The culture encourages collaboration with excellent colleagues which makes it a lot of fun. Rather than having a favorite specific project, I feel the most reward when a new project comes in and the foundation we designed before allows that project to be easily developed. It is easy to design a solution to a specific task. It is much more challenging to design frameworks that support multiple projects, many of which you never imagined during the original design.

The ability to think abstractly and design solutions that fit evolving needs is one of the marks of a great engineer. Another critical characteristic is the ability to work with and lead teams. Ideas play off each other. If you have a group of smart people that want to work together, amazing things happen.

And engineers can give back to their communities by helping the next generations who come behind them. This can be done in a number of ways. You can act as a mentor to neighbors or acquaintances or through a formal school program.

DIRECTV offers an intern program for college students during the summer. We put a lot of thought into the projects the students will be assigned and also to the mentor for each student. We tried to guide the students not only on how to come up with good designs but also on how to work with teams, sell their ideas, and build networks. In addition, many of the leadership programs at DIRECTV have a team building component that focuses on giving back to the community. Some examples include renovating schools that focus on STEM education and building bicycles as rewards for students who have excelled in their classwork.

 —Connie Goshgarian, VP, Engineering

To keep abreast of educational resources, programming, and opportunities, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Celebrate National Engineers Week 2015!

  • Feb 23, 2015


It’s National Engineers Week (Feb. 22-28), and if you’ll indulge me for just a few moments I’d like to invite you to kick-off the celebration by doing one simple thing: Wherever you happen to be right now, take a quick look around and consider how much of what you see represents the work of various types of engineers. Whether it’s the digital device upon which you’re reading this, or the textiles on your back; the desk at which you’re sitting or the building in which you’re housed; the snack you’re enjoying or the eyeglasses that help you read, every manufactured thing with which we interact each day represents the work of people—people who applied science, technology and mathematics to the task of invention, or, problem-solving.

And the world needs more. Which is why the National Society of Professional Engineers started Engineers Week way back in 1951—not only as a way to celebrate the role of  engineering in our daily lives, but, more importantly, to inspire the next generation of engineers.

National Engineers Week is coordinated by DiscoverE, a coalition of 100+ stakeholders in industry, government, associations, and academe whose stated mission is “To sustain and grow a dynamic engineering profession through outreach, education, celebration, and volunteerism.”

Of particular interest to us here at DIRECTV GOES TO SCHOOL is DiscoverE’s call to engineer volunteers for engagement in K-12 education. The group’s web site is chock-full of free resources designed to help educators, counselors and parents inspire students to consider the possibilities of a career in applied sciences.

Check it out for yourself. And keep abreast of the week’s events at #eweek2015.

In the coming days, we’ll introduce you to one of our own engineers here at DIRECTV.

To receive information about other great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio