wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost
ideas@innovations
About Dominic | About Vivek | About Emi | E-mail Us E-mail |  On Twitter Follow |  On Facebook Fan |  RSS RSS Feed
Posted at 06:25 PM ET, 08/07/2012

Bobak Ferdowsi, aka ‘Mohawk Guy’ and STEM education’s new dream come true


Bobak Ferdowsi, who cuts his hair differently for each mission, works inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. (Brian van der Brug - AP)
Chat with Bobak Ferdowsi on Wed., Aug. 8: Ferdowsi (and his mohawk) will be Skyping with the Washington Post on Wednesday from 1:30-2 p.m. ET. Submit your questions here or leave them in the comments.

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity continues to send back information from the Red Planet, including new images of its descent.

The Post’s Marc Kaufman writes that, following the rover’s dramatic landing, the time has come to take inventory and make sure the rover’s systems are all operational and ready for its two years, if not more, collecting and reporting data back to Earth.

But during the launch, and as the world awaits more new information on its planetary neighbor, the Internet has, quite literally, lost its mind over a mohawk in mission control. The mohawk belongs to Bobak Ferdowsi, the mission controller for NASA’s Mars Curiosity landing.

The Post’s Maura Judkis has summed up Ferdowsi’s landing in the Internet’s heart, if you will, chronicling the Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, video and blogger love he has received and, more important, why.

But, beyond the meme-ified photos and animated gif illustrations, Ferdowsi’s popularity has even greater, more innovation-relevant significance.

He makes science cool.


(Brian van der Brug - AP)

Astronauts have been doing it for years, but Ferdowsi serves as un-varnished proof that one can be a scientist with two feet firmly planted on the ground while simultaneously rocking a team-spirit mohawk.

And those promoting greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) — especially NASA — are desperate for ways to make science cool. For them, Ferdowsi is nitro to their engine.

In the lead-up to NASA’s live coverage, the agency brought Grammy winner Will.i.am to the studio for an interview about his work encouraging young people to STEM, including a star-studded ABC show he helped produce in 2011. But listening to a celebrity tell you to study hard rings more than a bit hollow.


(Pool - REUTERS)

Instead, it was Ferdowsi, sitting in mission control, who was the more accessible messenger, showing kids that being involved in science and math doesn’t mean giving up the trappings of cool. In fact, it can make the accouterments even more fun and significant.

”If my mohawk gets a few more people excited about science and this mission, then that’s awesome,” Ferdowsi said during an interview with the Web show “What’s Trending.” “That’s what it’s all about.”

The government agencies and corporations thirsty for more tech talent couldn’t agree more.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Chat Aug. 8 | Send your questions to Bobak Ferdowsi

NASA’s ‘Mohawk Guy’: 5 reasons the Internet is obsessed with him

Play-by-play | The Mars Curiosity landing

By  |  06:25 PM ET, 08/07/2012

Categories:  Education, Technology, Research

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company