Melvin leads NASA's education efforts, particularly those related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Recently, he has expanded his message to students and teachers to include the arts, a movement that some now refer to as STEAM.
"Some people see STEM and the arts as two very distinct areas, but I tend to disagree," said Melvin. "Some element of STEM is evident in almost everything we do - it is in art, music, cooking and sports. I was very interested in science as a kid, but I also loved sports and played musical instruments. I think most of us have a variety of interests."
Melvin often tells his personal story to help inspire the next generation of explorers. While getting his bachelor's degree in chemistry at the University of Richmond, he also played football for the Spiders - well enough to be drafted into the National Football League. But after a couple of hamstring injuries, Melvin left professional football and obtained his master's degree in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia.
Soon after that, he began his career as a research scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. While there, he applied to the astronaut program and was selected in 1998. Melvin flew to space twice aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2008 and 2009. He began his current assignment at NASA Headquarters in 2010.
"Space and sports offer a great hook for getting students interested in STEM," Melvin said. "Then I can remind them that having a good education is the foundation for whatever they want to do. I encourage students to find their passion and study hard. That's what can change dreams into realities."
CITYarts is dedicated to empowering youth to transform their communities and their lives through the creation of public art. In recent years, the space program has been a recurring theme in the students' designs. CITYarts Executive and Creative Director Tsipi Ben-Haim believes that the arts and science are the foundation for education and imagination. "This year CITYarts celebrates our new initiative to integrate science education into our public art projects," she said.
NASA uses it missions, programs and unique assets to inspire students and share the excitement of space exploration.
Ann Marie Trotta/NASA Headquarters