AFCEA Cyclists Ride to Rally STEM Support
What does riding a bike have to do with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education? For several AFCEA International employees, the answer is: a lot. The two were batting around ideas for future cycling trips when one suggested a ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., that could also serve as a fundraiser for the AFCEA Educational Foundation’s STEM scholarships.
Sean McGowan, director, member and chapter services, and Terry Rogers, manager of events for AFCEA’s Defense team, brought the idea to AFCEA leadership, and the idea will come to fruition October 7-12, when the first Cycle for STEM ride will take place with 20 riders.
“If we were crazy enough to consider doing this, it seemed logical that we’d do it for a cause,” McGowan says. “Supporting the great work the AFCEA Educational Foundation is doing for STEM seemed to be a perfect fit. The Pittsburgh to D.C. route seemed to highlight the relationship we have with Carnegie Mellon/Software Engineering Institute in Pittsburgh and AFCEA’s footprint in D.C. and could work on a lot of levels.” The foundation distributes more than $2 million in grants and scholarships each year; raising money with Cycle for STEM would allow for more students to receive educational benefits.
McGowan got the idea for the route after reading that the final stretch of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) has been completed, allowing for a safe 355-mile ride via the GAP and the C&O Canal trail system. The trail is the longest of its kind in the U.S.
McGowan and Rogers recruited fellow AFCEA staff members Ben Smith, manager, Homeland Security Programs, and Chris Gogoel, Young AFCEAN outreach associate and intelligence assistant, to help organize and ride in the fundraiser. “Through the work of a small core of AFCEA staff, along with an incredible group of volunteers, we’ve turned it into something that we think will grow into a signature regional cycling event,” Rogers explains.
“For 2013, I hope that we are able to successfully ‘set the stage’ for future Cycle for STEM events in this area and around the country. If we can pull this off, it should open doors to increase the scale and impact of future Cycle for STEM rides,” Gogoel says.
McGowan adds that an equally important goal is to highlight the need for increasing the number of children who pursue science and math as well as the number of teachers in the STEM fields.
McGowan has two young children in a school system with tremendous access to many STEM educational opportunities. “Not all kids have this level of access and opportunity, and the Educational Foundation helps provide these opportunities,” he says.
Although the primary goal is to raise STEM awareness and funding, the organizers also believe the endeavor will focus attention on exercise. “I’m taking the opportunity to reverse years of neglecting my health and fitness by training for and completing the Cycle for STEM challenge,” Smith says.
For the AFCEA Cycle for STEM staff participants, this fundraiser marks their first foray into long-distance cycling. McGowan and Rogers ride regularly for fitness, and the fundraiser presents an opportunity to push themselves further. Smith had not ridden his bike for many years before deciding to train for Cycle for STEM, and the event inspired Gogoel to challenge himself and start cycling.
The long-distance ride will actually be the finish line of a broader exercise endeavor. McGowan has logged 1,000 miles since April, and he plans to tackle a single ride of more than 80 miles before the event, which will require 60 to 70 miles per day for six days straight. Rogers is riding more than 20 miles at least four days per week with plans for a 100-mile ride the weekend before Cycle for STEM. Smith rides 12 miles per day with longer rides on weekends, and Gogoel has been training for just six weeks with his longest ride so far at 53 miles.
Cycle for STEM will use the Great Allegheny Passage, which spans from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh to connect to the C&O Canal trail system. Watch the video below for more details on the passage: