March 24, 2020

My Go For Launch! Experience by Aliah

This blog was written by Aliah a participant in Go For Launch! Full STEAM Ahead Seattle 2019 who was part of the winning team Northern Lights whose experiment was chosen to fly into space!

Before Go For Launch, I never dreamed that a normal person could have access to space. That idea seemed crazy. “Maybe in a few years,” I thought to myself. Then, out of the blue, my friend told me about a 2-day program where teens are given a shot at designing a project to be launched into space. Of course, that is the coolest thing ever, so I jumped at the opportunity.

The program was held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA. A woman with bright blue eyes and a big welcoming smile checked me in and handed me a lanyard with my name on it. Scanning my surroundings, I saw many excited teens shooing their parents out of the room, brown paper bags filled with sticky notes and tooth picks, and an older man smiling in the corner as he was watching all of us. This gentleman looked normal, so I did not think anything out of the ordinary. But a few minutes later, he was introduced as Astronaut Frank Culbertson. This man had spent over one hundred days in space and was taking his time to help teenagers learn about the subject he is most passionate about.

After the introductions, we divided into groups of three or four and started working on team-building activities. Racing against the clock, we hurriedly tried to construct the tallest tower out of the materials in the brown paper bags. Fortunately, my team’s wobbly paper structure stayed up long enough to be measured, but it did not make the cut as the tallest tower. Each team also picked a team name, my team and I picked the name Northern Lights.

Interspersed throughout the couple of days were talks by Mr. Culbertson, Mrs. Michelle Lucas and other specialists about space, leadership, perseverance, art and much more. One story that hit me was that Mrs. Lucas, the lady with the big smile at the check-in table, grew up dreaming about becoming an astronaut but a single kidney stone in her early adult years prevented her from ever leaving earth in a rocket. Currently, she is working as the lead coordinator for Go For Launch; but in the past, instead of becoming an astronaut, she trained them for their missions. She is a real inspiration because she worked a way around her problem and still found something that she is passionate about.

Of course, lots of time was set aside for brainstorming about our projects. My friends and I debated over the various design and functionality aspects for our STEAM project (STEM plus Art). Mr. Culbertson, Mrs. Lucas, and other professionals in the STEAM fields regularly checked in on us and provided insights that aided in the development of our project.

The last couple of hours was exhilarating. My team and I practiced our project pitch and tweaked our PowerPoint. The other presenter’s projects all seemed so creative and well thought out, so I was totally unexpecting the “congratulations team Northern Lights, you won!”

It was really all a blur from that point on. But the most important thing is what I learned over those two days. Leadership, public speaking, creative thinking, problem solving, time management, and all about outer space. None of this would have been possible without Go For Launch or Mrs. Michelle Lucas. I encourage any teen to take advantage of this program because it has shown me that I can do so much more than I first thought, including sending a project into space.

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