SAIC Celebrates National STEM Day

SAIC Celebrates National STEM Day

A look at our STEM Employee Resource Group and ways to celebrate science, technology, engineering, and math

Calendar icon 11-03-2021
Profile photo Joyce Abbey
Category icon CITIZENSHIP

In 2001, Joseph Bordogna, deputy director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), while chairing a directors strategy meeting, led the creation of the acronym STEM. The original acronym, SMETE (science, math, engineering, technology, and education), was too long. One variation, METS, was quickly dismissed, since Bordogna was from Philadelphia and supported the Phillies baseball team, a rival of the New York Mets.

Within the last five minutes of the meeting, Judith Ramaley, NSF's assistant director of education and human resources, rearranged the letters to form the STEM acronym. Bordogna, later on, commented on the acronym: "Ah, it is a STEM of knowledge. We tried to rationalize something, but now it has become all over the world, this STEM thing."

I am a passionate STEM advocate in the Houston region and beyond, always looking to inspire students and children, who will one day become our nation's next great engineers, scientists, and innovators. At SAIC, I co-lead the company's STEM Employee Resource Group (ERG), whose members work in partnership with community groups and organizations to engage students, educators, and mentors in STEM activities. Identifying and supporting large-scale, innovative, and effective STEM programs and initiatives, and mentoring future talent, the STEM ERG's outreach and positive impact can be felt on SAIC's employee volunteers and especially under-represented communities.

National STEM Day this year is Nov. 8, and I and our ERG's network of STEM professionals are rejoicing. In recognition, here are some highlights of the STEM ERG's impact as well as some fun ideas to celebrate the day.

Inspiring future trailblazers

Engaging STEM through recycled computers. Larry Bons, an SAIC electrical engineer senior principal and STEM ERG member, led the effort to donate retired SAIC laptops to Mountain Home Christian Academy in Mountain Home, Arkansas to encourage STEM learning. Bons also volunteers at the school by teaching a class in mechatronics and leading another class in playing the Kerbal Space Program video game of building and flying spacecraft.

Fallon Watts, an IT systems support technician in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and another STEM ERG member, led additional efforts to donate excess laptops to Oak Ridge High School Navy JROTC's CyberPatriot Team. Fallon is mentoring students toward careers in cybersecurity and other disciplines involving STEM and computers.

Helping students choose STEM careers through mentoring. STEM ERG member Cary Abul-Haj, a systems engineer senior principal in El Segundo, California, continues to develop a design challenge for the MESA (mathematics, engineering, science, and achievement ) project for underserved middle-school students in California and eight other states. The competition was created to supplement students' skills in systems engineering.

Doubling STEM outreach. The National Space Club and Foundation and the STEM ERG matched each other's $1,000 donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama, in Huntsville, doubling the impact of funding for the club's STEM lab. SAIC employees recently toured the lab, where kids are currently working with a 3D printer to design and make objects.


Meet some women in STEM at SAIC

SAIC celebrates the remarkable achievements and contributions of women in technology. Hear from women in STEM at SAIC.


SAIC employees and officials present a check to Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama
Officials of the National Space Club and Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs hold a check by SAIC to go toward STEM learning.

Ways to celebrate National STEM Day

Donate your LEGO bricks. LEGO Replay and Give Back Box are working together to pass donated bricks to children in need. When children play, they learn how to problem-solve, collaborate, and think creatively. Give Back Box provides a free shipping label to send in your bricks.

Visit a local museum. Spend an afternoon exploring and learning about STEM, or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics), through exhibits and on-site activities. Visit the American Alliance of Museums for a listing of participating venues.

Have a STEM movie marathon. Pop that popcorn and settle in for continuous learning by watching exciting STEM movies. A nice playlist includes:

  • "Hidden Figures" (PG): An inspiring historical drama based on the real lives of three African American women mathematicians working at NASA
  • "Spare Parts" (PG-13): Based on a true story, high school students form a robotics club and go up against the country's reigning robotics champion, MIT
  • "The Imitation Game" (PG-13): Cryptologists and mathematicians are front and center in this historical drama about a team that decrypted Germany's Enigma code during World War II and saved millions of lives
  • "Big Hero 6" (PG): An action-packed animated Disney movie about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada and his superhero team!


Posted by: Joyce Abbey

Communications Principal

Joyce Abbey is the Johnson Space Center Knowledge Management Office’s case study chief investigator, authoring more than 20 case studies on significant aerospace events and extracting lessons learned for current and future NASA programs. She also serves as the director of employee communications and external relations for NASA, as part of SAIC’s safety and mission assurance engineering program support to the agency.

Abbey is also active in NASA employee engagement as a vital member of a Johnson Space Center team focused on uniting the workforce by developing and hosting events to commemorate spaceflight events and anniversaries. She manages Houston-area STEM outreach and has created several aerospace education events, improving the community and inspiring employees, educators, students, and the public. Abbey is the co-chair of SAIC’s STEM employee resource group.

After spending time in the nonprofit sector, Abbey began her aerospace career, working in mission operations on the Space Shuttle program. She joined SAIC in 1997, further broadening her aerospace experience in Space Shuttle hardware, resource management, and organizational planning and development.

Among Abbey’s many accolades are her 2007 and 2016 SAIC CEO awards for her efforts in employee engagement and community relations. She was the 2017 Clear Creek Independent School District Education Foundation Citizen of the Year, 2018 WashingtonExec Pinnacle Award winner for STEM Advocate of the Year, and the Johnson Space Center Director’s 2019 Innovation Award winner. In 2020, the city of Nassau Bay, Texas, her hometown, named July 3 “Joyce Abbey Day” in honor of her work to recognize and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

A graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in psychology, Abbey is passionate about STEM education and volunteers in her personal time as a catalyst, connector, and strategist to help educators and students succeed. She is engaged with the SystemsGo aeroscience program for high schools, which challenges students to design and build rockets by applying their physics knowledge. She is also on Team NASA in the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and Space Center Houston’s volunteers chair.

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