Look up into the night sky. You’ll see just a few of the billions of stars in our own galaxy, which is one of billions of galaxies in the visible universe. Even with a basic telescope, you can see the rings of Saturn or the roaring storm we know as the red spot on Jupiter. Does that give you a feeling of awe? Do you feel a sense of wonder? These sentiments, these feelings of wonder, are just a few of the goals of the Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation, or DASEF, based at Big Oak Park in Smyrna, Delaware.
The non-profit’s motto is, “Wisdom Begins with Wonder,” according to President and CEO Dr. Stephanie Wright. “For kids, when they are in awe of things, when they’re inspired, when they’re motivated, they take learning to the next level.
They want to do more to satisfy their curiosities.”
DASEF is inspiring students through a variety of “DEstination” programs, including full-day and overnight academies, teaching kids about space flight, physics and rocketry. The Environmental Outpost in Smyrna offers standards-based programs to educate students, teachers and the general public about everything from dinosaurs to space. DASEF also brings astronomy and other science programs into schools across the state. The Foundation’s Mountjoy Observatory houses Delaware’s second-most-powerful telescope, which is used for star-gazing events throughout the year. Many of the programs would not be possible without assistance from numerous dedicated volunteers and partnerships. Funds and grants from organizations such as NASA Space Grant, Delaware State University, ILC of Dover, Kent County Levy Court, Agilent Technologies, IBM, state libraries and others are assisting DASEF to educate and encourage the curiosity of students through applied learning.
“We’re trying to encompass the child’s world. We want visitors to take away with them an appreciation of the earth and how we all need to play a role in preserving it for future generations,” said Dr. Wright. Individual contributions also play a major role fulfilling DASEF’s mission to instill an appreciation for our planet, and its place in the universe, for children and their families. The non-profit continues to raise funds to complete its Innovation Technology Exploration Center, or ITEC, also located on DASEF’s leased Smyrna property. The shell of the Center is already completed — the Foundation estimated it needs about $8 million to finish the rest of the project. ITEC will house classrooms, exhibit space and overnight accommodations for its popular Aerospace Academy and new overnight programs during the year. A formal drive is planned in the near future.
Dr. Wright founded DASEF in 1989. Her passion for science and education earned her a spot in NASA’s Teacher in Space Program in the mid 1980s. The program ended after its first participant, Christa McAuliffe, died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Wright watched the disaster unfold at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Science is still her passion and the management and expansion of DASEF programs is deeply personal for Dr. Wright. “Its been my life for 28 years. To all of us at DASEF, what we do is a gift to Delaware, serving the state and the Mid-Atlantic coast. It’s a beautiful place and it’s been an inspiration for so many years,” she said. To learn more about how to donate or get involved with DASEF, please visit www.dasef.org.