> Tom Atchison
> The Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation
> Tom Atchison is founder of the Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation, a non-profit
> educational foundation dedicated to facilitating civilian space research, STEM
> (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and competition
> as an enabler of civilian space explorers. After more than 25 years as a senior executive
> and entrepreneur successfully starting and running four high technology ventures in
> Silicon Valley, Tom decided to pursue his passion for space exploration by joining
> the civilian space race full time, designing and building his own rockets. Tom is a
> TRA L-3 certified flyer with a passion and drive for developing new experimental
> propulsion technologies that will reduce the cost and increase the accessibility of
> civilian space exploration.
> Tom will describe the mission of the Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation and the
> Mavericks Explorers STEM education space exploration program, which has been
> recognized for its unique ability to provide a comprehensive approach to STEM in
> a single investment of resources, and to accelerate systems engineering, collaborative
> working teams, and the pressure of a real world space mission. The program challenges
> high school students to demonstrate their mastery of STEM principals though design,
> construction and launch of their own space vehicle deploying a NASA research payload.

Tom began by explaining that key to the success of the space program was the cold war fear of competition beating us to colonize space, as well as enormous buy in that included a deep teaching of science at all levels of education. The education meant that we were able to launch well designed rockets with payloads that were able to do valuable work. The benefits for society like Tang and computer technology that evolved from this were further proof that the space race was a good idea.

Right now we don't have enough qualified students coming out of high school and college to keep the space program going at the level the previous generation did. One of the reasons is that kids today aren't willing to do all of the work in algebra and science because they don't see the payoff.

Tom wants to change this by getting kids excited about what they can do with engineering knowledge. The idea is to get them together to build rockets that do real science, starting from scratch and mentoring them through the design process. Once they see their rockets go up they are hooked, and they understand the role of math and physics in design. He showed us some nicely done movies about the project from sources like KQED's Quest program. Students from the pilot class in Compton stayed excited enough after that to graduate and go on to do well in four year colleges. Tom wants to duplicate that on a much bigger level by involving many more schools.

Building rockets involves more than just figuring out the design on paper. There is also the tooling to make the parts and assemble the thing. This requires more specialized stuff than is available at TechShop.com. Mavericks has a shop in Antioch that has the required stuff. They will need another one of those if the program expands much beyond the five cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Antioch, and ???) where it is currently active.

To find out more information and/or donate please visit:


Other things that came up during or before Q&A:

Back in the 1960's NASA's budget was 4.7 percent of the U.S. Government's. This year (2012)0 NASA's budget is less than one half of one percent of each national dollar spent. To do effective work with that, it needs to be spent intelligently.

KhanAcademy.com is a great resource for basic and college level information on many of the topics needed to design a rocket.

Mavericks mentors interface with the FAA and government for planning launch windows and making the fuel for the motors among other things.

Mavericks is looking for mentors, other volunteers and funding. To find out more please visit their website at: