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Case for Support

note: words in red are editorial notes and/or placeholders

University presidents, corporate leaders, political leaders, and economic leaders agree: science and engineering skills are necessary for a country be technologically innovative and economically competitive.

The Soviet Sputnik capsule launched the U.S. into a science and engineering frenzy that catapulted our country into leadership in space, technology development, and scientific research. The effort resulted in a boom in science and technology, creating high paying jobs and increasing the standard of living for Americans. Students studying science and engineering rose to new heights—and peaked in the 1980’s.

Recognizing the advantages of science and technology education, students from around the world are becoming scientists and engineers in droves. And American students are turning to other disciplines, leaving the U.S. with a growing sci/tech gap.

Here’s some startling news from the National Academies of Science (2005):

•   In 1999, only 41 percent of U.S. eighth graders had a math teacher who had majored in mathematics at the undergraduate or graduate level or studied the subject for teacher certification—a figure that was considerably lower than the international average of 71 percent.

•   U.S. 12th graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries on a test of general knowledge in mathematics and science.

•   In 2004, more than 600,000 engineers graduated from institutions of higher education in China. In India, the figure was 350,000. In America, it was about 70,000.

•   For the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States, a company can hire about five chemists in China or 11 engineers in India.

•   Last year chemical companies closed 70 facilities in the United States and have tagged 40 more for closure. Of 120 chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, one is in the United States and 50 are in China.

•   In 2001, U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development.

Recent reports issued by the National Academies of Science and the National Science Foundation have detailed the growing science and engineering proficiency of countries around the world—and of America’s flagging involvement.  They call for more science and math teachers, more students graduating with college degrees in science, engineering, and math, and more research and development in these high-tech fields.

Based on these reports, the President is calling for aggressive efforts to train xxx teachers in math, science, and technology in order to reach xxx students.

Drawing students into these fields takes more than a few national reports, no matter how compelling, no matter how impressive the leaders who wrote and endorsed them. It takes more than presidential endorsement, and even more than a few dollars in scholarships. Science and technology are competing for attention with the glamour of marketing, journalism, and finance; with the promise of high pay from business, medicine, and law; and with the fulfillment provided by art, literature, and religion. The key to attracting more young people to science, math, and engineering is to show them the glamour, the promise, and the fulfillment that can be found in science and engineering.

Getting more from working

The American workforce has changed in the decades since Sputnik. Now comfortable with our incomes and the lifestyle it can provide, more and more of us are seeking more than money in our work. Only half of Americans say they are satisfied with their jobs, and only 14 percent are “very satisfied” (Conference Board). Career Vision and the Ball Foundation (2005) report similar findings:

•   Across America, 45 percent of workers say they are either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs.

•   Only 20 percent feel very passionate about their jobs.

•   33 percent believe they have reached a dead end in their career.

•   21 percent are eager to change careers.

•   Older workers are the most satisfied and the most engaged in their work.

•   Younger workers are the most distressed and they feel the least amount of loyalty to their employers.

So simply exposing young people to the great careers in science and engineering isn’t enough. People need to be satisfied, impassioned, and fulfilled by their careers. As much time as Americans spend working, it only makes sense that we want more of the stuff of life—pride, passion, engagement, fulfillment, and wonder—from our careers.

National Sharing the Sky Foundation was created to fill this gap. We work to inspire.

Since people first began looking up, they were filled with wonder and awe of the heavens. Astronomy became the first science, a necessary tool for the first agrarians who planted, harvested, fished, and survived by the calendar of the sun and moon in the sky.  Unusual events like comets and eclipses were frightening changes to the constancy of the heavenly movements, and in time the superstitions connected with these events were replaced with renewed awe at the workings of solar systems, stars, galaxies, and the universe.

Just looking up leads to the biggest philosophical and religious questions facing humanity: What is our place in the universe? Are we alone? When did it all start? Will it end? Exploring and pondering the size of the universe, dark matter, the big bang, stellar evolution, extra-solar planet give pause and invite wonder.

This kind of wonder, deep thought, and a whole host of unanswered questions can spark the passion of young minds as they come into adulthood. When they begin to seek their own place in the world, to discover their strengths and skills, astronomy can be a guide into a new universe of perspectives.

While inviting wonder, astronomy provides a gentle introduction to a host of science and technological disciplines. Physics of motion, electromagnetics, and relativity are found among the planets and stars. Telescopes employ mechanics, electronics, computing systems, and optical systems that are easily managed by an interested young observer. Planets are understood through geology, chemistry, mechanics, gravity, atmospheric sciences, and more—using tools of math, computers, imaging systems, and analytical experiments. And the whole spectrum of biological sciences opens up to the student who becomes interested in the potential for extraterrestrial life.

A little inspirational astronomy has the potential to open students’ eyes to a future that is personally fulfilling and nationally needed.


The National Sharing the Sky Foundation is dedicated to providing this inspiration, knowing that each individual sparked by astronomy might find something different in that spark: a burning desire to answer profound questions in science; energy to tackle the mathematics needed to understand gravity, orbital motion, rocketry, life support systems, planetary geology, or electromagnetic fields; the ability to tell time without a watch; a spiritual connection with the earth and sky; or artistic inspiration. Anyone touched by the inspirational spark of astronomy will have a better life.

David Levy was struck by this spark when he was young. When he was eight years old and lonely at my first summer camp, he was walking to his cabin when he saw a shooting star in the sky.  That small streak of light, actually a meteor, started a lifelong passion for the night sky that has persisted to this day and that has resulted in the discoveries of 24 comets, and more than 14,000 observing sessions. Today he is the most famous amateur astronomer in the world. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, discovered with Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker, which crashed into Jupiter in 1994, is among his great finds. David is the author of 31 books and is a sought-after, inspirational speaker on astronomy and the night sky.  He won an Emmy in 1998 as part of the writing team for the Discovery Channel documentary, “Three Minutes to Impact.”  As the Science Editor for Parade Magazine, he is able to reach more than 78 million readers, almost a quarter of the population of the United States. 

All this and more came from a spark. It became such a great fire in David that he has spent his efforts sharing the wonders of the sky, looking to spark the passions of others. His long list of accomplishments in multiple media attest to his success at sharing his passion.

As spokesman and Honorary Chair of the National Sharing the Sky Foundation, David Levy is in the forefront of our efforts to spark the passions for astronomy in young people. We know it can be done because he has shown us how. We know that lecturing is not enough to change lives; that America’s future needs will not engage a child’s wonder; that teaching math or science alone will change the interests of students. Showing them things that inspire, providing provocative questions, and looking at life-altering beauty can change a life and can lead a child to seek answers to the questions. As more and more ask the questions in the classroom and in life, more and more will be inspired to develop tools to find answers with math and science.

Sharing the Passion: Face-to-Face Inspiration

In some circles it’s called “face time.” Seeing someone real and live, talking face-to-face. No video, television, phone, internet. Real people making real connections.

David Levy is one of a handful of top astronomers who has a passion for sharing his other passion: astronomy. His skill is sparking passion in others through enthusiastic presentations about discovery, awakening, and wonder—about the night sky. Quality visual aids and presentation skills are used, sure, but it’s the connection David makes with his audience, in real time, that spreads inspiration.

Many schools and community groups seek David and those who, like him, can spark passion for science. But few can afford even the basic costs of time and travel to bring the enthusiasm to their own backyard. Regular costs for national-level science speakers can be $7,000 to $10,000 and more—well beyond the means of many programs.

So a girl scout troupe or a middle school in small-town America or a science club in a big town has few options to meet the nation’s top inspirers. They can take a field trip and see whomever happens to be in the big city being visited; they might get lucky a visit a truly fine motivator (after they’ve raised hundreds of dollars per student). They can use books and videos and star parties, knowing that there will be a few self-motivated participants who will find the spark through these more remote means.

At National Sharing the Sky Foundation, we prefer to bring passionate programming to the students. Face to face. We believe that sparks jump from person to person much more efficiently than when filtered through videos and books.

Our primary program brings leading motivators—ardent astronomers with passion for sharing—to young audiences around the country who could not otherwise afford such a speaker. David Levy has agreed to serve as our primary speaker and will, at a reduced rate, make up to 20 passionate presentations each year. Each presentation includes a lecture, complete with illustrations, that seeks to inspire audiences to reach for the stars, one-on-one discussions with teachers and administrators, and an optional observing session. Each lecture is designed specifically for the audience, whether it be kindergarteners or second-year university students. Participants can use additional Sharing the Sky programs (below) to get a telescope to use at their sites, use remote telescopes, and listen to science radio programs to keep the spark alive.

At $5,000 per presentation (with occasional savings when travel arrangements allow), the National Sharing the Sky Foundation is seeking $100,000 per year to reach 20,000 young people. At $5 per person, that’s a good value when the odds of lighting a spark are so high.

Sponsorship Amount:      $5,000

Annual goal:                    $100,000

Endowment goal:            $2 million

Sharing the Vision: Community Telescopes

Looking at a brilliantly star-studded night sky is more than a lesson. It’s an emotional experience. The sky fills us with questions about our place in the universe, about beginnings and endings, about purpose and meaning. It begs us to look deeper.

Inspirational leaders can encourage a child to look up and can spark questions about the depth of the universe. The looking leads to learning. And when better tools are available, more learning can occur, deeper questions can be answered, and more wonder unfolds.

Using a telescope is an introduction, through astronomy, to the world of technology. The technology of astronomy opens doors to learning about computers, physics, optics, engineering, and of course, astronomy. For some, the discovery will spark an interest that can lead to new career directions.

But telescope use is limited to programs with funds—not only funds for acquisition, but also for maintenance and management of the telescopes. Most students don’t have access to telescopes until college, and then only if they are in upper-division astronomy programs. By then, any passion created by astronomy will have waned unless actively fanned.

National Sharing the Sky Foundation is making more telescopes available throughout the learning years to keep the spark alive and growing. We believe that, by making telescopes available to more students, those who are inspired to look up will begin to look deeper.

Each year, three telescopes will be given to schools and community groups throughout the country. Each time David Levy does a Face-to-Face, the host group will be invited to create a plan to will use a Meade Instruments 14-inch telescope for passion-inspiring programming. We will help the three selected recipients set up the telescopes and programming, and they will receive on-going support from National Sharing the Sky Foundation.

Costs to place a telescope and develop programming average $4,000 per telescope, exclusive of the cost of storage and maintenance of the instrument. Cost sharing by the recipient will cover routine maintenance. You can provide the resources to provide expert, inspirational educators during program development and training to ensure the kind of use that reaches many young people, sparks their questions, and uncovers the answers.

Sponsorship Amount:      $10,000

Observatory:                  $25,000

Annual goal:                    $30,000

Endowment goal:            $250,000

Sharing the Universe: Remote-use Telescopes

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough David Levy’s to meet and light enough imaginations. Face-to-face inspiration will reach thousands. Community telescopes will reach thousands more, and will allow them to look even deeper, maintaining the spark. Remote-use telescopes can reach extend the reach to hundreds of thousands of people, and can allow an even deeper penetration into the mysteries of the universe.

Sharing the Sky Foundation is installing two 0.5-meter telescopes for remote use by a wide audience of amateurs. The first one, already in place in Tucson, Arizona, is being tested with users from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The second telescope will be located in the Southern Hemisphere, opening up the entire universe to young people who are inspired to discover more.

This rare opportunity for full-sky coverage, available to amateurs comes with costs of observatory installation, telescope purchase and installation, remote system installation and testing, telescope use administration, and maintenance of the observatories. slight bit more detail on costs here. With both telescopes operational, approximately xx people can have observing time on the telescopes each year. end with motivating statement about low cost of sharing the universe with so many people.

Sponsorship Amount:       $5,000–$100,000

telescope:                        $50,000

observatory                     $25-50k

admin                              $30k/yr

maintenance                     $5k/yr

Total goal:                      $200,000

Endowment goal:            $1 million

Sharing the Knowledge: Internet Radio

We already know that David Levy and other inspirational teachers can only reach so many. We want to reach more. And we want to provide multiple avenues for those already sparked to maintain a glowing passion.

David and Wendee Levy host the internet radio show Let’s Talk Stars, a program of the National Sharing the Sky Foundation. The internet provides great distribution opportunities, using the medium of greatest interest to young people and with excellent accessibility.  The radio format compliments the visual presentations telescopic opportunities provided by the Foundation, rounding out our programs with formats that appeal to more of the senses. And the content introduces listeners to a multitude of inspirational innovators. Perhaps a child’s interest will be sparked to learn about electricity after hearing the program about Michael Faraday and his discovery that a car will protect you from lightning strikes, no matter how often the car is struck. Or a youngster will do her science project on Martian craters after listening to Bill Hartmann describe the fascinating terrains of this alien world. The program on the Royal Canadian optical telescope may keep a first-year physics major inspired to keep working when his optics class is getting tough. And it’s really exciting when educators and educators-to-be find information and inspiration to share the passion for science.

something about costs

Your sponsorship can share the knowledge and the spark that opens doors to science and engineering.

Sponsorship Amount:      $1,000         2hr/wk per person

Annual goal:                    $52x1,000

Endowment goal:


“Research and development in the United States has materially contributed to innovation and economic growth. The strong U.S. economic performance during the 1990s has given impetus to the trend toward a knowledge-based economy: that is, one in which research, its commercial exploitation, and other intellectual work play a growing role in driving economic growth.” NSF Indicators 2004

In October 2002, United States Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan argued that we live and work in a global environment “in which prospects for economic growth now depend importantly on a country's capacity to develop and apply new technologies.” “If we are to remain preeminent in transforming knowledge into economic value,” says Greenspan, “the U.S. system of higher education must remain the world's leader in generating scientific and technological breakthroughs and in preparing workers to meet the evolving demands for skilled labor.”

It is no longer accurate to say America is falling behind on education. We have fallen behind. —John Chambers, CEO Cisco Systems

It is clear to us that energizing American brainpower must be a priority. Every facet of our lives, from national security to modern medicine to the everyday household goods, relies on technology.    —Senator Pete Domenici, R-NM

The whole foundation of American culture and economy is based on the concept of discovery and innovation. When you look at what has made America a superpower, it’s our innovation and our technology. We have to look at where the new ideas are going to come from that are going to generate the new products for the 21st century.   —Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD

For the United States to remain at the forefront of world science and technology, it needs an educated science and engineering workforce capable of operating in the international research environment and a global market.  —National Science Foundation

The United States has always depended upon the inventiveness of its people in order to compete in the world marketplace. Now, preparation of the S&E workforce is a vital arena for national competitiveness. —National Science Foundation

Science and technology have been and will continue to be engines of US

economic growth and national security. Excellence in discovery and innovation

in science and engineering (S&E) derive from an ample and well-educated

workforce – skilled practitioners with two- and four-year degrees and beyond,

researchers and educators with advanced degrees, and precollege teachers of

mathematics and science. —National Science Foundation, The Science and Engineering Workforce: Realizing America’s Potential, August 2003

The scale and nature of the ongoing revolution in science and technology, and what this implies for the quality of human capital in the 21st century, pose critical national security challenges for the United States. Second only to a weapon of mass destruction detonating in an American city, we can think of nothing more dangerous than a failure to manage properly science, technology, and education for the common good over the next quarter century. U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (2001) (from the NSF publication above)



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technology, science, engineering, math


National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2004

Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future 2005, Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century: An Agenda for American Science and Technology, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine; Norman R. Augustine, Chair

National Science Foundation, The Science and Engineering Workforce: Realizing America’s Potential, August 2003

Greenspan, A. 2000. Remarks of the Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to the National Governors' Association 92nd Annual Meeting, 11 July, Washington, DC. (as referenced in NSF’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2004)



string of pearls


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“Author and award winning amateur astronomer David Levy also has this ability to spread passion. When he lectures about the night sky, he gets so excited that he dances around the stage like Fred Astaire. Kids and adults alike leave his lectures filled with wonder and never look sat the sky the same way again. Levy makes his work come alive, not just because the information he gives is so interesting, but because of the way he downloads his excitement directly into his audience. He could be talking about the newest in shower drains and still entertain a crowd!”

Arielle Eckstut's book, Putting your Passion into Print  (2005), p. 23

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.     —Leonardo Da Vinci

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.     —Buddha

A job is what we do for money; work is what we do for love.    —Marysarah Quinn

The return from your work must be the satisfaction that work brings you and the world’s need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near as heaven as you can get.                 —W.E.B. Dubois

It is high time the ideal of success should be replaced with the ideal of service.    —Albert Einstein

Good Work: First, to provide necessary and useful goods and services. Second, to enable every on of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts. . . . Third,d to do so in service to, and cooperation with others, so as to liberate ourselves from inborn egocentricity.    —E.F. Schumacher

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.          —Carl Sagan

"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere."   —Carl Sagan

Americans are growing increasingly unhappy with their jobs. The decline in job satisfaction is widespread among workers of all ages and across all income brackets. —The Conference Board

Work is a search  "for daily meaning as well as daily bread."      —Studs Terkel, Working 1974

But once you become active in something, something happens to you. You get excited and suddenly you realize you count.             —Studs Terkel

"the biggest change in the workplace is the interest in spirituality. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s not about religion. It’s about job satisfaction. Jobs in the future will have to be more meaningful. Pay won’t be as important as a good job."       — Harriet Hankin, president of CGI Consulting