On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush unveiled a new vision for space exploration in order to “gain a new foothold on the moon and to prepare for new journeys to the worlds beyond our own.” NASA calculates that the first human to walk on Mars is currently sitting in a middle or elementary school classroom somewhere in the United States.
However, student aptitude and interest in math and science is on the decline. Studies show that American eighth graders have fallen far behind their peers in other countries. At the same time, enrollment in technical courses is declining at American colleges and universities while jobs in technology are growing at a rate of three times that of all other careers combined.
As a technology leader, Honeywell recognizes the importance of inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. That’s why Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the philanthropic arm of Honeywell, joined together with NASA on a breakthrough program called FMA Live! Where Science Rocks. named for Sir Isaac Newton’s Second Law (Force = Mass x Acceleration), FMA Live is a traveling multimedia show that uses live actors, Hip Hop music, videos and scientific demonstrations to teach kids about Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravity in a compelling and memorable way.
Launched in March 2004, FMA Live! targets middle school children and energizes their interest in math and science though an unprecedented combination of original songs, high-energy demonstrations and student interaction.
One of the biggest challenges for Honeywell and NASA was to design a program that would help young people appreciate the relevance of science, math, engineering and technology to their lives, and to the future of our nation. The program needed to set the students’ minds into motion and encourage greater involvement in science and math studies. To be successful, it needed to leave an indelible mark on each student in the hope that more children would pursue careers in science and math as they enter high school and eventually college.
As part of the planning process, Honeywell and NASA reached out to middle school teachers around the country to better understand the challenges that these teachers faced in the classroom. Overwhelmingly, teachers said that while any program needed to be aligned with National Science Education Standards, it needed to speak to students in their language, about their passions, and their future.
Honeywell then recruited a team of professional actors that specialized in entertaining young audiences. Together, they choreographed a dynamic stage show that used music, video and demonstrations to teach Forces and Motion through Newton’s Three Laws of Motion and the Universal Law of Gravity. By doing so, they developed a process that uses scientific inquiry to explore how and why things move, using activities and objects from teens’ everyday lives. The format was created to teach students that understanding science is key to understanding the world around them.
The team also developed a website to offer students and teachers the opportunity to experience the FMA Live show and all its activities online; including the original music and music videos. The site also served as a central repository of information about Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravity, lesson plans for the classroom and other educational material on math and science studies.
To support each live event and generate mainstream awareness of FMA Live! and the company’s partnership with NASA, Honeywell developed a public relations plan that targeted local media in each market. The plan was to saturate each local market with pre- and post-event media coverage using Honeywell executives, the FMA Live! street team, students, school administrators/teachers and elected officials as spokespeople..
The objective was to enhance the public’s perception of Honeywell through its affiliation with NASA and FMA Live!; further influence students and teachers at other schools to embrace science and math through education that was entertaining and relevant to everyday life; and increase charitable donations from employees to support Honeywell’s math and science programs.
From March through November, FMA Live! brought Newton’s Three Laws of Motion to life for 32,500 middle school students at 59 middle schools in 21 communities across the country. The FMA Live! tour traveled more then 15,000 miles with performances in Tucson, Chicago, Seattle, Syracuse, Morristown, Richmond, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Wichita, Tulsa, Houston, Baton Rouge, Clearwater, and Torrance, among other locations.
At each event, students participated in a variety of activities that demonstrated each of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Among the activities included Velcro walls that demonstrated inertia, low riders (go-carts) driven across the stage to illustrate action/reaction and a futuristic hover chair that provided a glimpse of all three of Newton’s Laws working in unison.
In support of the tour, the public relations effort generated 41 stories in local market media, resulting in more than 3 million media impressions. Coverage highlights include The Arizona Republic, Houston Chronicle, The Times-Picayune, The Seattle Times, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and more then 20 stories on local market broadcast outlets.
Across the country, the feedback from teachers and principals has been tremendous. “Veteran teachers said it was the best assembly they had ever seen. As students came back to the classroom, I quizzed many about their Newton knowledge and they knew it,” said Pat Leffler, science teacher and department head, Highland Middle School, Bellevue, WA. “FMA Live is the best teaching performance I have ever seen. Not only is it entertaining but students learn Newton’s Laws with memorable effect,” added
Judy Austin, principal of Greenbelt Middle School, Greenbelt, MD
However, the greatest achievement was the impact of FMA Live! on the nearly 33,000 students who experienced the power of the dynamic program. Kaylee Smith, a student at Richardson Middle School in Torrance, CA, summed it up best: “Along with my fellow classmates, we were amazed by how you could make learning about Sir Isaac Newton so interesting. And be able to make it stay with us, because that’s certainly a difficult task. We love you guys and we thank you for coming to our school. I think this was the best show that I have ever seen about something so educational that kept me interested the whole time.”