Greater Oregon STEM Mission
A regional partnership cultivating a community that values STEM learning, prepares youth for successful STEM careers, and builds pathways and pipelines to meet workforce needs.

Realize regional prosperity through a thriving STEM workforce and career‐ready rural youth.











NASA Lands in Eastern Oregon

NASA has been showing up in eastern Oregon this year! We were so fortunate to have Norman Chaffee, a retired engineer from NASA make a tour through eastern Oregon connecting with students from four area high schools. Mr. Chaffee visited the UAS Mission Control Center in Umatilla County, La Grande High School in Union County and Baker High School in Baker County. Students were treated to an inspiring man who quietly regaled them with stories from an amazing career building propulsion systems for rockets and leading projects as varied as robotics and biomedical engineering.

Another NASA connection is our very own Adam Moreno, a 1999 graduate of La Grande High School who is now a post-doctoral fellow at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Adam is a current member of the GO-STEM Advisory Board and offers his time in a variety of ways to schools and students in eastern Oregon. If you are interested in supercomputers, forest health, or climate change research go to this link to listen to a NASA interview with Adam. Adam is available to meet with students and teachers about his work and regularly visits the area. Contact GO-STEM if you would like to bring Adam to your school!

For more stories of people engaged in STEM, see: http://go-stem.org/newsletters/


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One way to engage learners with an authentic STEM experience is to start by telling a true story. In this segment, interesting (and sometimes odd) stories will invite readers to engage in further STEM explorations. Each month will be a brief story and then a link to read more as well as consider a number of STEM explorations and activities connected to the story.

February’s Story: The Man Who Nearly Destroyed the Earth’s Atmosphere

Thomas Midgely was a brilliant chemist. One of his first major efforts was to assist the war effort during the 1940’s by improving the performance of gasoline.  His research produced an amazing chemical that when added to gas boosted the octane rating–that is the explosive power of the gasoline inside an engine.  This fuel boosted the engines of the Allied fighters battling over England.  The slower German aircraft could not accelerate or fly as fast, and as a result, the Battle of Britain was won.  Midgely was widely praised for his contribution to the war.

Later in his career, Midgely worked on a new problem. Refrigerator manufactures were puzzled about how to make the coolant in their refrigerator’s compressor more efficient and less toxic. The original liquid used, ammonia, was poisonous and did not perform well as a conductor of heat.  Midgely set his chemist’s mind to the task and ultimately developed a miracle new chemical that was highly efficient and non-toxic.  The industry  celebrated his success. Again he gained high honors for his discovery.

By the 1970’s, long after Thomas Midgley had passed away, environmental scientists began to understand how certain human-made chemicals were interacting with the atmosphere. Midgley’s additive to gasoline was killing people and the new refrigerant he discovered was destroying the ozone layer. Thomas Midgely, almost single handedly, nearly destroyed the planet.

What else can we learn from this story? What sorts of STEM explorations can we pursue to know more about these problems?   Read the rest of the story and possible explorations at:  https://sites.google.com/a/eou.edu/stem-stories/midgely