When Robert Jordan watches Wednesday’s first manned U.S. launch in 9 years, some things will be different and some the same. He’ll still step out of his office door to see the liftoff from one of the closest allowable vantage points, but he won’t be a senior managing engineer for a contractor of the U.S. Space Program. Now he isthe contractor. (See Jordan featured in 2011 Time Magazine video https://vimeo.com/27087032.)
Among 5,400 Florida U.S. space employees laid off as the space shuttle program folded, he immediately started his own space and defense contracting firm. He also leads a STEAM-focused (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Science) nonprofit charter school to raise up future workers for the space program, and better than that, entrepreneurs who can start their own contracting businesses and commercial launch operations and invent new products that can generate jobs, not just fill them.
Viera Charter School not only has a technology teacher to make sure students in kindergarten through fifth grade master high-tech gadgets, but it also has an award-winning certified science teacher to lead every elementary student through STEAM-experiments, problem solving in teams, robotics, and more. This feeds into its middle school STEAM program, which offers code-writing and other tech electives, and whose robotics teams routinely sweep top awards. The elementary activity wheel also boasts a PE-like math coach to create and celebrate fun weekly activities and competitions, all in addition to students’ own curricular math and science teachers, and traditional math and science coaches.
“As a public school, you can provide an education at no cost to families, and as a charter school, you have the freedom to design the most effective curriculum in partnerships with professionals in the industry,” said Jordan, who started as a shuttle engineer in 1979 two years before the first launch. “As a locally owned and governed nonprofit, you can direct the profits back into the school and into the students to continually build on your success.”
VCS is completing a new middle school to open in August, still Viera’s only traditional public or charter middle school. It features a gymnasium that will double as a 1,000-seat performing arts theater, new cafeteria and new track and athletic fields. The former K-8 school building will be expanded, totally renovated and devoted to grades K-5. Sports and the arts are also an important focus of the school, feeding into top programs across the street at Viera and other high schools across the county. It opened in 2013 and has earned an A rating each year, including its first, a rarity. Each year it earns the Florida Governor’s School of Excellence Award. It is the only school in the county to extend its Cambridge Advanced Program of Studies to K-5 students. A lottery is held each year for school admissions.
Formerly serving as Chairman of the Brevard County School Board, Jordan now holds the president and chairman position of the VCS Governing Board. It was a promotion to a position that he, the school and the community would be happy to keep him in for a very long time.
Who would have thought that when Jordan watched NASA’s STS 135 launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis from Pad 39 A at 11:26 a.m. July 8, 2011, that the next manned launch would be done directly by a private commercial space firm and entrepreneur such as SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk? And who thought it would be a good idea to prepare the next generations of young minds to do the same?
Robert Jordan did.