Not many 18-year-olds can say they’re friends with iconic TV host Bill Nye the Science Guy, however, Aidan Spencer, the 2021 4-H and HughesNet Youth in Action STEM Pillar Award winner, can. Aidan was one of four lucky 4-Hers who had the opportunity to virtually meet Bill last fall during @4-H Mars Base Camp Trivia Challenge.
As a military kid, Aidan’s Army mom and Air Force dad instilled a sense of purpose and adventure in him, which he tapped into to explore and pursue new passions, including his love for basketball. Six years ago, however, a series of personal setbacks—including family illness, a house fire, and a debilitating car accident that left him in a back brace—changed all that for the Oklahoma native. He not only lost all his physical possessions; he also lost his identity as an athlete in the process.
It was then that Aidan’s STEM journey began after his friends, seeing how down he was, encouraged the then 12-year-old to join his local 4-H Robotics Club to try to find himself again. From that point forward, Aidan knew 4-H was where he belonged. There, he found the sense of community he was looking for, discovered a love for robotics, and became an ardent advocate of STEM education in the process.
Aidan’s Action Leads to Youth in Action STEM Pillar Award
Aidan realized many local students did not have the same kind of access to STEM education at their schools as he did through 4-H. He wasted no time volunteering at over 60 STEM exposure community events for vulnerable youth and raised more than $7,000 to help fund STEM and robotics programming in Oklahoma City. But that’s not all: he also launched three new FIRST LEGO League robotics teams in his area, developed a summer science camp for kids, and taught over 200 elementary school children how to program robots.
As Aidan puts it, “I’ve read that scientists think we very likely could have another pandemic in the next 10 or 15 years. The future scientist who could potentially come up with a treatment or vaccine ahead of time won’t know it or have the opportunity to do so because she or he may not have access to the STEM education that could make it possible. STEM gives you critical thinking skills, and whether you want to go into politics, business or science, education is where it all starts.”
Today, Aidan believes the world is amid one of its greatest existential crises. He also believes the solution to it centers around critical STEM education for the youth who will become tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, developers, doctors, and leaders. He believes that, as a society, more must be done to ensure quality access to STEM learning resources, especially for virtual learning.
It is this thinking that drove Aidan toward using his passion in the pursuit of helping others.
Aidan’s Advice for Kids Considering STEM
Bill Nye the Science Guy said it best: “There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting young people interested in science and engineering, for a better tomorrow, for all humankind.”
Aidan, too, believes in this philosophy. “Anybody can be involved in STEM. You can do it for fun without making a career out of it. You can immerse yourself in STEM activities, participate in 4-H projects or robotics competitions and learn new skills, but it doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment at this stage,” he expressed during a conversation with representatives of HughesNet, which sponsors the 4-H STEM Pillar Award. As a 4-H sponsor, HughesNet makes it possible for youth, no matter where they live, to access hands-on and interactive STEM activities through STEM Lab projects on 4-H at Home.
To learn more about Aidan and the 4-H Youth in Action Awards, click here. HughesNet is proud to support Aidan on his STEM journey and excited to see what he will accomplish next. As the sponsor of the 4-H Youth in Action STEM Pillar Award for the fifth consecutive year, HughesNet is dedicated to the advancement of rural STEM education and ensuring those living in unserved or underserved communities have much-needed access to reliable and affordable high-speed Internet.