At Higher Orbits “Go for Launch!” students discover that they are launching ambition, self-confidence, and groundbreaking ideas!
When “Go for Launch!” began, I was intimidated. As everyone stood up to share about themselves, I learned that my fellow participants seemed to have accomplished more than I ever could. People shared that they attended schools designed around STEM or agriculture. They spoke of experiences competing in STEM competitions on prestigious university campuses’ and of personally knowing and learning from college professors. My team was the only one comprised entirely of students who attend a traditional public high school with few STEM opportunities. We were also unique because we were the only all-girl team. Competitively, we truly believed that although we would try our best, we had no chance against our experienced, impressive opponents.
In public schools, funding is often an issue. STEM programs and the arts suffer most in the form of budget constraints. Subsequently, to the members of my team, “Go for Launch!” is an outstanding opportunity. Chances to explore our love of STEM are few and far between. With Higher Orbits, we could learn about how science, technology, engineering, and math converge. We were genuinely interested! As public-school students, this project was unique when compared to an average school assignment. Our exploration with Higher Orbits and NASA did not represent everyday schoolwork. We don’t work with field experts and astronauts every day. During breaks, we looked up science puns and laughed and laughed. We laughed more than anyone else in the room because “Go for Launch!” is fun, and we had discovered that possibly winning was only one aspect of the event. That isn’t to say we weren’t taking the project seriously. We just knew that the experience and our discoveries were the most significant rewards. Winning isn’t everything. We would rather have fun than spend two days on a project we didn’t enjoy. Earning one more win is not the goal. Participants who focus on winning alone forget that this was a tremendous chance to learn.
“Go for Launch!” is unique because it isn’t just a STEM competition. Students spent much of the event interacting with people who have made science their lives. We learned from those who were once just like us, including a real astronaut. Getting to watch presentations made by remarkable scientists and an astronaut and then actually getting to talk to them personally isn’t something that happens every day. Knowing all they are accomplishing and then learning that they started their journey, much like us, gave me hope for my future. I began to realize that I don’t need to go to a STEM school to be successful. A love of learning and determination to always do my best will make the difference.
By the end of the event, I was excited to present. My nerves from the previous day were gone. I was proud of my team! We stood up in front of everyone to share our project. It occurred to me that I had become extremely invested over the past two days. I couldn’t help but smile with pride. We had worked so well together, and we knew our scientific mission well. Overnight, we had become experts in a subject that just two days earlier, none of us knew existed. We still didn’t believe we could win in a room with experienced competitors, but the journey had been incredible. We watched the presentations of the other teams and were again impressed by this incredible group of people. We gained new scientific knowledge from each unique team.
As the judges left the room to decide on a winner, we all talked nervously. I was somewhat surprised at myself when the judges re-entered the room, and I subconsciously crossed my fingers. I hadn’t planned on becoming invested in this project or getting my hopes up, but here I was, crossing everything I possibly could and sharing nervous smiles with the rest of my team in hopes of success.
Over the two-day event, I learned a great deal, but I also became closer to my team than I ever could have imagined I would. I made new friends, and I still talk to some of the other people who attended our event — Finding out that my team won the Rhode Island Higher Orbits “Go for Launch!” event was one of the greatest moments of my life. I love writing and helping write the synopsis for my team’s project was so much fun. “Go for Launch”! has given me a STEM project to put my heart into, and I will forever be grateful for that experience. I can’t wait to “Go for Launch” again when there is another Rhode Island regional event!
By Kristiana C.
Rhode Island Go for Launch!