Challenger Center and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) announced the launch of the Trailblazing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Educator Award. The annual award will celebrate K-12 teachers going above and beyond to inspire the next generation of explorers and innovators.

The award will recognize teachers who connect classroom lessons to the country’s current and future plans for exploration and innovation, introduce students to STEM careers, and activate students’ imagination about space exploration. Following a year of incredible challenges for educators, this year’s award will also celebrate educators who continued to excite their students about STEM throughout the difficult circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nominations are now being accepted at and may be submitted through January 30, 2022.

Five finalists will be selected from the nominations. Each of the five finalists and their respective schools will be awarded $5,000; each finalist also will receive free access to Challenger Center’s STEM programs, a trip to Washington, DC, to be honored at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala, and a special presentation ceremony at their school.

“Teachers always have been, and continue to be, a catalyst who can ignite a student’s potential to see a future in STEM,” said Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “After the incredible challenges throughout the last couple of years, there’s no better time to celebrate teachers. Educators dedicate their lives to nurture future generations and inspire them to reach for the stars. We’re honored to team up with AIAA and recognize several of these trailblazers across the country.”

“We are excited about our collaboration with Challenger Center supporting those who are invaluable to our communities – educators. We share a commitment to strengthening the aerospace profession by inspiring the future workforce,” said Dan Dumbacher, executive director, AIAA. “We need a diverse and robust STEM next generation who use what they learn today to innovate and invent tomorrow. We can’t wait to recognize these passionate and inspirational trailblazers who spark students’ interest in STEM subjects, especially the science and engineering behind aerospace.”

Even as the U.S. aerospace and defense industry leads the world in innovation, it faces challenges with the workforce: a skills gap of STEM-literate students entering the industry, a need for greater participation by women and ethnic minorities, and a growing knowledge gap from early retirements. Based on the “2021 AIAA State of the Industry Report,” nearly 50% of respondents believe an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion by aerospace industry employers will help increase the pipeline of skilled, competent aerospace professionals.

About Challenger Center 

As a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Challenger Center provides more than 250,000 students annually with experiential education programs that engage students in hands-on learning opportunities. These programs, delivered in Challenger Learning Centers and classrooms, strengthen knowledge in STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue careers in these important fields. Challenger Center was created by the Challenger families to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L. For more information about Challenger Center, please visit or connect on Facebook,Twitter, and LinkedIn.

About AIAA Foundation 

The AIAA Foundation inspires and supports the next generation of aerospace professionals. From classroom to career, the AIAA Foundation enables innovative K-12 and university programming, including STEM classroom grants, scholarships, conferences, and hands-on competitions. Founded in 1996, the AIAA Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational organization connected to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

About AIAA The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.