By Lt. Jennifer Cragg, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs Officer
GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- More than 1,100 students and teachers from 12 area high schools were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at Robert E. Fitch High School to learn from a former submariner and veteran of three NASA space shuttle flights, May 26.
Capt. Stephen G. Bowen, NASA astronaut, a native of Cohasset, Mass., stressed the importance of education, particularly in science and math, which help to expand the number of career choices, especially in his own life during the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) event.
"A lesson learned for me was if you study hard in school and do well in a lot of classes, you have more choices," said Bowen. "There are many other places I could have gone, but I chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy. By the time I got out of the Naval Academy … I chose to go into submarine force."
Bowen graduated from Cohasset High School, Cohasset, Mass. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a degree in ocean engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In July 2000, he was selected to be a mission specialist for the Space Shuttle Program, becoming the first submarine officer selected by NASA.
"He is unique. He is the only submariner to be accepted for the astronaut career track," said retired Navy Cmdr. Tony Quatroche, a former New London Submarine Base and Submarine School executive officer, who currently teaches math at Robert E. Fitch High School.
Capt. Paul Kelleher, commanding officer, Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory along with Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board and EASTCONN helped to arrange Bowen's visit. Also attending the STEM event was fellow U.S. Navy Academy classmate, Capt. William Merz, commanding officer, COMSUBDEVRON Twelve.
Bowen reflected on working in the "world's greatest job," and his thoughts on being chosen for the astronaut program.
"You feel very lucky to be chosen," said Bowen. "Of those that apply and qualify only about .8 percent gets selected," said Bowen.
During his visit Bowen discussed both his career track in the submarine force and the astronaut program, stressing the importance of the teamwork aspect of flying in space.
"STS-132 was the first mission in over a decade where every single crew member had flown in space previously," said Bowen. "Based on that, we chose to emphasize the team effort required while in space."
The Eastern Connecticut high schools participating included: Robert E. Fitch High School, Bacon Academy, East Lyme High School, Ellis Technical High School, Ledyard High School, Lyme-Old Lyme High School, Norwich Free Academy, Old Saybrook High School, Stonington High School, Windham High School, Woodstock Academy, and Valley Regional High School.