Meet Dr. Steve Scotti, Brilliant Star’s STEM Education Advisor

The 1961 launch of this Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft inspired Steve's lifelong interest in space. Photo: NASA

If you had a few minutes with a NASA scientist, what would you love to ask? Wouldn’t it be fun to gaze through a giant telescope together or plan a trip across the galaxy?


Dr. Steve Scotti is excited to share his passion for space and science with you! He’s Brilliant Star’s STEM Education Advisor and a research engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, U.S. He works to develop lighter, stronger materials and structures for aircraft and spacecraft. He also writes cool content for Brilliant Star Online, answers kids’ questions in our Space Ace feature, and helps us out with all things science-y. 

Steve shared his thoughts with us in this interview about life, space, and the excitement of STEM (and STEAM).

 

Steve at about age 7, when he was growing up in New Jersey.

Q: What inspired you to become a space scientist?

I think my interest in space started with the launching of the first U.S. astronaut, Alan Shepard, in the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule way back in 1961. Spaceships and spacemen captured everyone’s interest, and I guess my interest stayed strong as I grew up.

 

Q: What are two amazing things about space that you’d like everybody to know?

Because space is so vast and the universe is expanding, there are things in the universe that we will never be able see–not now nor any time in the future–no matter how good our telescopes become. 

Also, based on discoveries of the Kepler spacecraft, solar systems like ours, with multiple planets orbiting around a sun, are pretty common. In fact, 70% of all stars are believed to have at least one planet orbiting them.

 

Q: If you could discover the answer to one mystery about space, what would you most like to know?

Astronomers’ instruments can detect only about 5% of the matter in the universe. But in addition to this regular matter, we know there is more matter or energy in the universe because of its effect on regular matter. So I would like the answer to the mystery of what this “dark matter” and “dark energy” really is.

 

Q: Do you personally believe we’ll someday find life on another planet?

Because planets orbiting their stars are so common, I believe we’ll eventually find life on other planets.

 

Q: Do you think humans will live on another planet someday? If so, when?

Humans traveling to other planets, and eventually settling on them, will eventually happen. But no planet in our solar system other than Earth would be easy to live on. Settlers would have to “live off of the land” for all of their basic needs, since it is so expensive to send cargo to another planet. I think it will be many years before we see settlements on other planets.

 

Q: Why do you think it’s exciting for kids to explore STEM?

STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and if you add Art you have “STEAM.” STEAM is exciting because it is “hands on,” and kids learn by doing fun things.

 

Q: What do you like about working with Brilliant Star

I love the goal of Brilliant Star to inspire and educate kids. Because the whole Brilliant Star team feels the same way, I’m thrilled to be part of the team!

 

Q: How does the Bahá’í Faith influence you in your work?

In coming up with a course of action or making a decision in a team project, I’ve used the principles of consultation mentioned in the Bahá’í writings many times. I’d start with gathering all the suggestions and ideas from the team members, since everyone has a unique perspective. As part of this step, we’d list what we knew or didn’t know about the options. If a decision was needed immediately, we’d consult on the strengths and weaknesses of the options to choose one. If we could wait, we’d consult on what work is needed to fill in the “knowledge gaps” to make a good decision.

 

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

What I enjoy most is solving challenging problems. I get excited when someone brings me something that is broken and asks me to fix it, or when I need to learn something new to accomplish a task.

 

Q: What’s your wish for Brilliant Star’s readers?

My wish for Brilliant Star’s readers is to learn to think critically, to serve others, and to be happy.

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