Carie Lemack is the cofounder and CEO of DreamUp, the first company to bring space-related STEM training into classrooms, and to bring student-designed experiments into space, on board the ISS. A former national security policy expert/advocate and the producer of an Academy Award-nominated film, Lemack is a proud supporter of all students reaching for the stars.
How did your education and previous professional experience shape your current work at DreamUp?
I was lucky enough as a child to go to Space Camp not one, not two, not three, but four times. I guess you can say I can’t get enough of a good thing. Learning about space and experiencing firsthand how experts can teach about space and make it relevant to engaging young minds has always inspired me. Subsequently, I had a chance to use those skills when I was a counselor at Space Camp California. Of course, those were both early-life experiences, but they created the foundation upon which I would later rely to answer the simple but sometimes difficult question, "What do you want to do?"
At DreamUp, we get to not only empower educators to bring space into their classrooms, and their classrooms into space, but also to use their feedback and lessons learned to inspire our newest offerings. My career has taught me that amazing ideas can come and do come from all sorts of sources, and it’s our job to listen and learn from them. The best results come from a team, and we are so lucky that educators who are part of the DreamUp community are invested in finding the most impactful methods to inspire and engage the next generation of innovators and explorers.
How do you hope your work at DreamUp will inspire students to pursue STEM careers?
We believe it is a national imperative to engage students at an early age, to teach them that, indeed, the sky is not the limit, and to provide opportunities for learners to experience firsthand that their ideas have value and can change the world. At DreamUp, we use space as a hook to get kids excited about STEM. Who isn’t excited about space?! While it may seem clear for a learner already interested in science, technology, engineering, and math why they’d want to be part of a project that has to do with space, we endeavor to also engage students who are interested in art, communications, and other "non-STEM" fields, to show them how critical their skills and interests are to STEM-related projects. No crew can go to space and study the cosmos without food, clothes, and the ability to speak to one another and to communicate what they learn. All of these functions and more are supported by a team with critical STEM as well as "non-STEM" skills. We aim to demonstrate that robust teams comprised with members who have well-rounded skills are needed to make any mission, STEM-related or otherwise, successful.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
We see a larger number of classrooms looking to interdisciplinary, project-based and competency-based learning, aiming to empower learners to gain real-world skills and think beyond what they need to master standardized tests. I am inspired by emerging schools like the aerospace school proposed at Wings Over the Rockies in Colorado, that will provide learners with not only the hands-on skills but also the certifications they need to get started in their careers.
What, if any, are future plans for DreamUp?
DreamUp is focused on the future, looking to find innovative and impactful ways to bring space into classrooms and classrooms into space. This month we’re launching our first DreamKit (a science kit for home, school, or out-of-school learning that allows users to replicate an experiment conducted in space and compare the results they get to those found by astronauts), which is available on Amazon. We will soon announce a new offering, currently in pilot testing throughout the US and in use in Australia, that provides an online platform that teaches learners to think like engineers and enables student coding experiments to go to space.
We will continue to find ways to engage all students, from all communities, regardless of the resources they have, to ensure student access to space is universal.
Who are the most interesting people you are following on Twitter?
As you can likely tell by my social media history, I am not a daily user of Twitter. However, I am inspired by a number of colleagues. First off, in the space industry, Jenn Gustetic, Whitney Lohmeyer, Emily Calandrelli, and Erika Wagner are all incredible women making a big difference. In the education industry, I look to Kathleen Fredette, Kaci Heins, and Alice Shull (my first-grade teacher who inspired my interest in space!) when I want guidance and clarity.
Image: Courtesy Carie Lemack