Later this month, I will have the privilege of attending the opening of the La Cañada Flintridge-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s new Flight Projects Center. The opening of this groundbreaking facility is more than just a point of local pride. It will serve as an engine of innovation that will spur new growth in our economy and the development of the next generation of technological advances. It will also serve as an example to today’s students of tomorrow’s possibilities.
JPL’s new Flight Projects Center is set to house missions in the busy design and development phases. They include the Juno mission to Jupiter and the Space Interferometry Mission. It will be here that scientists from across the globe will work together and pursue the technology needed to explore and better understand our universe. But this new facility is exciting for another reason – its use of green technologies to conserve energy and water, a precious resource in Southern California, and to incorporate the local environment into its functions. The new Flight Projects Center has a green, living roof that will keep the facility cool in the summer and warm in the winter. According to JPL, the plantings used resemble those found in places like Joshua Tree, California, and will help minimize storm water runoff into the Arroyo Seco, a dry riverbed nearby. The building will also be using low-flow faucets and toilets, which will save an estimated 500,000 gallons of water every year.
JPL has always been a leader in innovation, but this new facility sets an even higher standard, and can serve as yet another spark of interest for the students who will one day enter into the 21st century economy. As the leaders in the academic and high-tech communities of Southern California have repeatedly told me, the time to build a foundation in math and science comes long before the college years. Without a solid background at an early age, students simply do not possess the educational skills – or the interest – in high-tech fields. That is why I have been a strong proponent of improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education from elementary to secondary schools. My efforts have included proposals that would expand Advanced Placement courses in math and science; establish comprehensive teacher preparation programs to help cultivate students’ interest in STEM fields at an early age; and recruit STEM professionals to serve as adjunct teachers, so that students are taught by individuals who are experienced and well qualified.
With JPL in our area, the sources of inspiration are great. Whether they are exploring other planets or advancing the research that leads to tremendous new medical breakthroughs, the individuals who make JPL a world-class facility are inspiring students and adults alike.
Congressman Dreier’s district spans the foothill communities at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains just north and east of Los Angeles and includes La Crescenta. He can be reached at