March 22, 2023

Jodie’s First Go For Launch! Experience

I hopped over little robots as students raced them around the library and landed waist-deep in my first Go For Launch! experience.

In January of 2023 I began a Communications Internship with Higher Orbits. Through my work for social media and other projects I was familiar with scenes from past events, so when I was invited to attend GFL! Midland Spring 2023 I did not hesitate to give a resounding “Yes!” and pack my bags.

Finally all of the preparation was complete and the first students were arriving. It was so much fun to meet so many students, all with different dreams and aspirations that they were there to get inspired to keep chasing.

I had the pleasure of helping STEM instructor, Jeff Herold, organize a game for the students, robot wrestling! STEM-based activities helped to get students invested in learning skills like programming and design. The end-result was full of energy and had me cheering for students in the all-out robot battle.

Not only were the students invested in winning the battle, but I was able to see how each team came together and used their individual creativity to work together. Even after the activities had concluded there were still multiple conversations happening about further optimizing designs and performance of their robots.

Meeting Astronaut Wendy Lawrence and hearing talks from her was truly one of the biggest joys of the entire experience.  Astronaut Lawrence gave students the story of her career and what it took to get into space.  She explained many of the difficulties that she encountered on the road to space, one being her height which rendered spacewalk suits too large to be usable.  Her refusal to give up was inspiring and gave great insight into what was possible with hard work, drive, and the patience to wait for your opportunity.

This fueled students’ curiosity and afterwards Astronaut Wendy would answer any questions that they could think of.  Having this opportunity to connect one-on-one with someone as inspiring as Wendy was invaluable, and some of the questions that students were asking were incredible things that I wouldn’t have thought to ask about!

Michelle Lucas also spoke with students about her life and career and how she came to found Higher Orbits and begin the Go For Launch! programs.  Stories about working for NASA and instructing astronauts across the globe had me so locked-in that I had forgotten I wasn’t a student myself! Her journey gave an incredible example to students of what it means to live inspired by STEM.

Finally, the students’ work in the experiment design competition was out of this world! Hearing the plans each team had created together and seeing the details of their thoughts gave me a new appreciation for the goals of the program.  Students were proposing incredible ideas and research to send to space and sought to solve real problems with their designs. I was impressed with the teams’ work putting together their experiment and solving problems along the way to create a finished product.

The Go For Launch! program truly amazed me. From start to finish it was wonderful to see the engagement that the program encourages from everyone involved. Attending the event was an experience that inspired me through the wonders of STEM and teamwork, and I cannot wait to Go For Launch! again.

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