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Home > Leadership > Mayor > Archived Press Releases > 2015 Archives > August 2015 > City Youth Skype With NASA Astronaut

City Youth Skype With NASA Astronaut

Mayor Brown arranged for the skype conversation as part of his continued commitment to support initiatives that raise interest in Buffalo’s growing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry

August 5, 2015 – Mayor Byron Brown and more than 150 city youth, including youth assigned to STEM work sites as part of his annual Summer Youth Internship program, learned about science today straight from a current astronaut. During a 60-minute skype session, the teens learned about ‘space’ from NASA Astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain Sunita L. “Suni” Williams.

“I thank NASA and NASA Astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain Sunita L. “Suni” Williams for helping me continue to encourage city youth to take advantage of career opportunities in STEM fields,” said Mayor Brown.  “As Buffalo continues to experience significant economic growth and job creation, we need to make sure our workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future.  In the next ten years, Buffalo will see an estimated 17,000 advanced manufacturing jobs become available and we need to do everything we can to fill these positions and further strengthen our region.”

Sunita "Suni" Williams is an American astronaut and United States Navy officer of Indian-Slovenian descent. She has logged more than 3,000 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft and flown aboard the space shuttle, Russian Soyuz and International Space Station.  She has spent a total of 322 days in space on two International Space Station missions and ranks sixth on the all-time United States endurance list and second all-time for a female as well as holds the record for total spacewalk time for a woman with 50 hours 40 minutes. 

Captain Williams has been twice been awarded a Navy Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Humanitarian Service Medal and various other service awards; she was also recently selected by NASA as one of four veteran astronauts to fly on the first test flights of commercial spacecraft.

Last month, Mayor Brown directed his staff to reach out to NASA to arrange an astronaut interview that would give this year’s summer youth employment interns, which included interns assigned to STEM work sites in Buffalo, the opportunity to further their knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  It’s part of an on-going year-round effort by Mayor Brown, the Buffalo Public Schools, educators, scientists and business leaders in Buffalo to spark children’s interest in STEM careers.

“Student engagement in science, technology, engineering and math is increasingly important and I thank NASA and Astronaut Sunita Williams for being part of our creative and important partnership,” said SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin, chair of Buffalo Public Schools STEM Experiences. “This conversation with the summer interns builds on our ongoing efforts to excite Buffalo students about opportunities available to them in the STEM fields.”

During the skype session, Captain Williams talked about her career and participating youth had the opportunity to ask questions. Among the questions they asked: ‘What do astronauts do at work when they’re not flying?’ ‘What do you eat in space?’ ‘What can you bring in your spaceship?’ ‘What does the sun look like in space?’ and ‘What does the inside of your suit feel like?’


Also at today’s event were representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration, including Teri Coaxum, SBA Region II Advocate, and Victoria Williams, an economist in the SBA’s Office of Economic Research within the Office of Advocacy.

Teri Coaxum, SBA Region II Advocate, stated, "With the continued growth of technology-focused small businesses, it is increasingly important that we encourage children to pursue an education in STEM. With a solid education, it is very possible that the great entrepreneur of tomorrow is sitting in the classroom today."

Since 2006, Mayor Brown has provided more than 20,000 meaningful summer job opportunities to city youth.  Today’s event included summer youth interns from the S.E.N.S.E.S. program, which is focused on STEM research, as well as youth interns assigned to programs affiliated with SUNY Buffalo State, ECC’s Say Yes Bridge Program and Canisius College’s Academic Talent Search Program.