On Wednesday, November 20, Robertsville Middle School staff and students had the pleasure of hosting Frank Brogan, the US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. The purpose of his visit was to learn more about the unique partnership Robertsville has with NASA and local scientists and the work to date on the Cube Satellite Launch Initiative as well as to hear more about other innovative efforts in rethinking education. Members of ORS Board of Education and local elected officials from Oak Ridge and Anderson County were present for the event.

Dr. Bruce Borchers, Superintendent of Oak Ridge Schools, opened the day’s activities with a welcome and introduction to the school system and our Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness. Holly Cross, Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications, highlighted Key 7, focusing on early postsecondary opportunities that prepare students for college, career, and life. Robertsville Principal Kirk Renegar discussed the commitment of Robertsville staff to developing the whole child.

The second stop for Assistant Secretary Brogan was Todd Livesay’s STEM classroom. There, students gave a presentation outlining the process and products for their NASA Cube Satellite Launch Initiative which will send a nanosatellite they named “RamSat” into space in 2020. Students talked about the creation of their mission to track regrowth of vegetation after the devastation of the Gatlinburg fires. While RamSat is orbiting Earth, students will capture images from an onboard camera and audio signals communicating to a ham radio station in their classroom. After the presentation, students and staff hosted a listening panel with Mr. Brogan in the library.

During his visit, Mr. Brogan said, “I didn’t show up here by accident. I gave our staff direction to ‘Find me schools where innovation is flourishing.’” He said they were on the lookout for how to do things differently for students, to help them be successful in a changing world. His team has been visiting schools that are basing their learning on change for future careers and innovation to better try to reach the students that they work with every day. He stated that it’s amazing how people have embraced this in America’s schools, and continued, “The nation picked you for this visit, which is really important for you to know. Don’t take it for granted. Cling to it. Know you are in a community that is putting your future over everything else to ensure your opportunity is different to make you successful.”