August 25, 2022

More Than a Flight: Miles on a Mission for Student Success

At Higher Orbits, we are fortunate to work with some pretty stellar students. Through Go For Launch!, participants get #SpaceInspired by industry professionals, work with a featured Astronaut, complete STEM activities, and earn space swag. Students also get the unique opportunity to design an experiment that could be selected to launch in space.

Through United’s Miles on a Mission Campaign, Higher Orbits is able to continue supporting our students in ways outside of our Go For Launch! programing. These additional opportunities have taken winning teams to see the launch of their experiment, allowed individuals to showcase their science at conferences, and provided opportunities for them to network.

Sophia Crowder and Abi Youngker are two students who have been directly impacted by this campaign and the out of this world opportunities it has granted them.

Member of Go For Launch! Full STEAM Ahead winning team Pisces Project, Sophia Crowder, is a student ambassador for Higher Orbits, founder of girl-empowering initiative, ITGirls, and a Space Coast Scholar of the NASA/Virginia Space Grant Consortium. She is currently a HS junior taking dual college classes towards an associate degree with concentration in Science & Math.

Thanks to Miles on a Mission, Sophia was able to attend AIAA’s SciTech Forum in San Diego and present her work with her peers and fellow Go For Launch! participants.

“I am so thankful for United Airlines’ Miles on a Mission program for the incredible support they have extended to organizations like Higher Orbits which, in turn, enable students like me to participate in educational programs throughout the country,” said Sophia. “By helping cover our airfare, Miles on a Mission makes the impossible, possible—giving wings to students like me to be able to attend project launches and conferences that help widen our horizons and expand our experiences.”

You can learn more about Sophia’s SciTech experience here.

Abi Youngker, a team member of our Orbital ATK Series winning team, the Saguaro Snakes, is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. This summer, Abi earned a position as an engineering intern with Big Metal Additive, a metal hybrid additive manufacturing company based out of Denver, CO.

“From Australia to Las Vegas, Miles on a Mission has allowed me to expand my network as a student, as well as share my story as a Higher Orbits ambassador with people all around the world. A large part of meeting these people was having my travel taken care of by such an amazing organization. United Miles allowed me to not have to focus on the details of travel but rather focus on the memories and connections I made once I arrived,” said Abi.

You can learn more about Abi’s experience at ASCEND here.

Over the course of our 2020 and 2021 campaign results, Higher Orbits has been able to showcase students at AIAA’s SciTech Forum, the American Astronautical Society's Von Braun Memorial Symposium in Huntsville, and AIAA's ASCEND Conference in Las Vegas.

Donated miles to our campaign also granted our 2020 Series Go For Launch! winners the opportunity of a lifetime to see their experiment launch to space aboard NG-17 out of Virginia.

These miles have made it possible for us to bring Astronauts to communities across 10 different states for our Go For Launch! programs over the past two campaign years. We even had the opportunity to work with stellar students in Michigan, North Dakota, Utah, & Alabama, where we held our first ever Go For Launch! events in those states.

United’s Miles on a Mission initiative provides so much more than just travel. For Higher Orbits students’ it means a new experience, a new opportunity, a new moment for them to shine. We are galactically grateful to United Airlines for this incredible opportunity and to all who donated to our campaign. Thanks to our supporters, we are able to make these opportunities available for students like Abi and Sophia.

About the author

Katy Thompson was introduced into the space scene in 2020 when she began working with Higher Orbits as a Communications Intern. Since then, she has graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with her B.S. in Communications and a minor in business administration. Thompson holds the position of Communications Director for Higher Orbits and enjoys using that position to help connect students with Higher Orbits programs, educational resources, and all things space.



Katy Thompson


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