It’s not every day that a kid is invited to an event at the White House, but last week I was one of several kid reporters who was able to attend the State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (SoSTEM) meeting on January 21, 2016.
Every scientist and student in attendance was so passionate about what they do, I couldn’t help thinking, I want to do that when I grow up!
One highlight of the event was talking to astronauts in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS)! I asked astronaut Terry Virts what he thinks is the coolest thing to see in space. “That’s a hard question to answer, but I think it’s the auroras,” he said. “Being from Maryland, I never got to see them and they are so cool to look at here.”
Two other ISS astronauts, Barry E. “Butch” Wilmore and Samantha Cristoforetti, said being in space is amazing. And for both of them, it wasn't only the sights they saw in space, but also that they were actually living out a childhood dream.
I also was able to ask the head of NASA and former astronaut Charles Bolden about how flying an airplane is different than flying a space shuttle. “You have more control when you fly a plane, because it has an engine. But when you fly a space shuttle, it’s more like flying a glider since it has no engine,” he said.
Dr. Ellen Stofan, the chief scientist at NASA, answered my question about what it would be like to travel to Venus. “I think it would be great if we were be able to land on Venus! But it would be difficult to do because it is about 900 degrees. And the surface is very rough and bumpy, ” said Stofan.
I wanted to know why Megan Smith, the chief technology officer at the White House, became an engineer. “I was a kid during an energy crisis in America," she said. "So I would do different science fair projects on different energy sources like solar, wind, and hydrogen energy, [which] I found fascinating. Then, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Several women scientists were part of a panel and shared their thoughts on careers in STEM fields. My favorite part of the panel was when Kathy Pham, a computer scientist, said you shouldn’t take no for an answer. That made me feel like I could do anything in the future, even if someone told me I couldn’t.
Going to this event and talking to the scientists and engineers made me realize engineering isn’t just for boys. More boys may study engineering, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it.