Troy D. Cline is the Director of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) innovation lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. A long time Space: 1999 fan, this is the story of his inpiration to seek a career in science!
It’s hard to say when I first became fascinated by our universe. Perhaps it all started when I was 4 years old when my grandmother took me outside, pointed at the moon and told me what it was called. I remember thinking how impossible it seemed that an entire world could simply float quietly above me in a sky anointed with thousands of stars. As I grew, so did my fascination with the nighttime sky and other worlds. What would it be like to live on the moon or Mars? How could we get there? Boxes quickly turned into space stations, while blinking Christmas lights became futuristic computer displays. I can’t imagine the show I must have put on for my poor parents.
Being a curious imaginative little boy in 1975 had it perks. We were at the beginning of the computer revolution which meant that I was being exposed to awesome new devices that included digital watches, calculators, and electric typewriters. In those days getting my little hands on anything with buttons was a plus! Within seconds I would imagine that I was entering code for some type of space mission or dispatching an important communique to Moonbase Alpha.
Needless to say, I was a science fiction junky when it came to shows like Star Trek and Space: 1999. Star Trek certainly had its appeal and vision of a future where countless beings from other worlds wrestled with how to communicate and respect each other’s place in the universe. However, Space: 1999 had an appeal all of its own. It presented a technology based future that could conceivably happen in my lifetime! Although we didn’t colonize the moon by 1999 or blow ourselves out of orbit, we did match and surpass quite a bit of the technology that the show had imagined. As the characters zoomed though space looking for a new habitable world to call home, viewers gained an even deeper appreciation and respect for the world in which we live: Earth.
Science fiction not only opened my mind to fantastical new worlds but also laid the foundation for how I would interface with my own world and future. Without realizing it, my young mind was being trained to be comfortable with other cultures, belief systems and ways of being that were truly worlds apart from my own. It was those values that eventually brought me to NASA where I eventually became the Director of a new NASA program called the STEM Innovation Lab. This lab provides a collaborative (physical and virtual) space for the exploration and development of new ideas related to infusion of media, culture and educational technology into STEM activities, programs, and approaches. How cool is that?!
To find out more about STEM, read up on them here!