Published: March 16, 2010

Aerospace engineering students at the University of Colorado at Boulder have developed an initiative called "We Want Our Future" to inspire the nation's youth and strengthen their interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

"We really want to wake up the younger generation," said Bradley Cheetham, the CU-Boulder graduate student who started the initiative. "We want kids to understand that this is their future and they have the power to make it what they want it to be."

With the help of a short inspirational video directed at K-12 students, and a letter written by former astronaut Joe Tanner, who serves on the CU-Boulder faculty, the project aims to collect more than 100,000 postcards from students around the country graphically depicting what each student imagines to be the future of space exploration.

"The imagination and vision that we inspire in our youth will determine the greatness of our future," said Tanner, a senior instructor in aerospace engineering sciences who is advising the students along with former astronaut Jim Voss.

The drive is being made in conjunction with a number of established space groups, including the NASA Office of Education, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and the Coalition for Space Exploration. The CU chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space also is helping with the initiative.

Cheetham said he and CU graduate student Bruce Davis, who is co-leading the initiative, want to use the postcards to send a cohesive message to the nation and to government officials about the importance of continuing our nation's history and achievements in space exploration. They plan to deliver the postcards they collect from students to Washington, D.C., at an event yet to be determined in late spring.

Cheetham came up with the idea for the initiative after speaking to some middle school students in Buffalo, N.Y., when he was an undergraduate student. He recognized through that experience that space exploration has the power to inspire and motivate students to work hard at school so they can take charge of their own future.

"The future of space exploration depends not only on the actions of today, but also the education of the leaders of tomorrow," Cheetham said.

The initiative is enlisting the help of teachers, youth leaders, parents and other volunteers who can make personal contacts with schools and youth groups. Donations are also needed to cover the cost of materials and their distribution around the country.

For more information about the initiative and how to get involved, go to

Brad Cheetham, a CU-Boulder aerospace engineering doctoral student, listens to Jake Gest, 6, describe his rocket idea that he drew on a postcard at the Ricks Center for Gifted Students in Denver on March 15. Started by Cheetham and fellow CU-Boulder doctoral student Bruce Davis, the initiative to draw over 100,000 postcards with space and science ideas from K-12 students is called “We Want Our Future” and is meant to inspire the nation’s youth and strengthen their interest in science, technology, engineering and math. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)