Full STEAM Ahead!

Full STEAM Ahead!

Ball Employee Helps Bridge the Arts and Sciences with Music

This National Engineers Week (Feb. 18-24), Ball is highlighting some of our employees’ efforts over the past few decades as they have dedicated thousands of hours to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach activities. Our robust STEM program has grown nationwide with our generous employee volunteers, who have used their passion for engineering to introduce children to STEM careers. More recently, STEM has begun to transform into STEAM, which adds ‘art’ to the mix. This idea of adding the arts will transform the science and technology of today into the 21st century with creativity and artistic expression.

“Incorporating art into STEM activities provides another avenue for sparking interest in STEM topics,” said Denise Henry, Ball Aerospace outreach manager. “We’re happy to take that avenue whenever it can be effective.”

So how do art and science mix? One example is an effort this past year involving Jeff Smith, material control analyst at Ball Aerospace. Smith gave a keynote speech at the Cities in Space™ Conference in Austin, TX, where he dove into the history of music in space, exciting the 500 student attendees with the story of how music has been used beyond Earth

In his presentation, Smith showed the technical feats needed to send melodies to space, while emphasizing the importance of taking the best of our creativity and humanity beyond Earth. Smith explained that music in space isn’t a new concept nor is it rocket science.

Music began floating through space with the 1961 launch of the first human, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin reportedly listened to Russian love songs on the launch pad to calm himself down. He was also the first person to sing in space as he performed “The Motherland Hears, the Motherland Knows.”

Smith also explained that NASA is building the Orion spacecraft, which will take humans into deep space. As part of this mission, Ball is building the voice communication antennas that will likely deliver music to the first Orion astronaut crew.

He added that Orion isn’t the first spacecraft to have music on board—NASA’s Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft launched 40 years ago, each with a Golden Record on board. This record acted as a time capsule that contained songs, sounds, images and greetings in 55 languages, all sharing the diversity of life and culture on Earth with possible extraterrestrials. After Smith’s keynote presentation, students could come listen to a replica of the Golden Record on a good, old-fashioned record player at his Music in Space display.

To make the display even more interactive, Smith invited the students to write down what song they would like to send to an astronaut -- or hear in their own spaceship when they become astronauts. Some of the top songs included:

“Across the Universe” by the Beatles
“All Star” by Smash Mouth
“On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons

“I am a huge supporter of STEM/STEAM education in general, but I think learning the way things have been done in the past is not enough. It’s important to add the arts to science, technology, engineering and mathematics because that is where the creativity comes from, which leads to innovation, new inventions and patents,” said Smith.

Smith is one of Ball’s many employees who have made time to give back to the community, encouraging students to explore careers in STEM/STEAM. At Ball he is a mentor to the summer interns through the Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST).  Over the years he has been a space enthusiast and activist, participating in space organizations such as the Space Frontier Foundation, National Space Society and the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA). Smith can be found volunteering biweekly at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science as a Galaxy Guide where he inspires guests of the museum to reach for the stars.

Ball’s hope is that the next generation continues to challenge the status quo and advance our understanding of our planet and beyond, making STEM/STEAM outreach more important than ever.