January 17, 2022

Abi’s ASCEND 2021 Experience

In November of 2021, I was fortunate enough to be invited as a student speaker for Higher Orbits at AIAA’s ASCEND conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been involved with Higher Orbits for close to 5 years now and through the years I have taken any opportunity I am to advocate for this incredible organization. Over the conference's three-day period, the days I attended I spent my time sitting in countless presentations and was a student panelist alongside other fellow past Go For Launch! series student winners. As a panelist at ASCEND, I was able to share my story with attendees as well as live stream watchers around the nation. Not only was it amazing to speak on the impact Higher Orbits has had on me as well as countless other students, but it was even more incredible to feel completely surrounded by individuals in the aerospace community for three whole days. ASCEND was the first official aerospace conference I have ever attended, making it one of the largest networking opportunities I have ever been presented with. As a sophomore in college at the moment, I am in my peak college networking window and Higher Orbits allowed me to expand my own network by inviting me to attend and speak with them. I spent three days engaging in conversation and hearing from professionals in countless aerospace fields. From Space Force defense, to clearing up trash in space, I was able to broaden my view of the many lines of work that aerospace provides as I begin my journey of applying for internships.

One of my favorite presentations I attended while at ASCEND was the Macro talk on the last day titled Arrival: Persevering into the Future. I heard from panelists, MiMi Aung, Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Sandra Freund, and Jennifer Trosper. All four of these panelists are leading females in the aerospace industry and it was so great to hear about all the work they have done and their words of encouragement for the next generation of females in aerospace.

I would like to thank Michelle Lucas and Higher Orbits, as well as AIAA, for providing me the chance to attend the ASCEND 2021 conference and begin my path into a career in aerospace. From networking, to educational presentations, ASCEND was a well-rounded experience for me and I hope to attend similar conferences and events in the future as I become more engulfed in the aerospace community.

About the author

I am a 5th generation Arizona native currently pursuing my undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.

I found my passion for STEM and aerospace when I was 14 and I now spend my time advocating for women in STEM and being a student ambassador for the non-profit organization Higher Orbits. I strive to make space and STEM for everyone by sharing my story and life with others on instagram at @Space.Ginger.Abi



Abi Youngker


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