January 31, 2022

What could be more epic than SciTech 2022

If my first spacey soirée for the month is to be any indication of what the rest of my year will be like, I would have to say it’s going to be stellar and exciting! This January, I was fortunate to attend the AIAA Scitech Forum in San Diego, California to share some insight on being a student ambassador for Higher Orbits and what this incredible program has done for me in my STEM journey.

As always, I embrace these opportunities to be be able to share my Higher Orbits story in the hopes of inspiring a wide array of audiences, from students like me to parents in attendance to other organizations and companies within the industry who help non-profit organizations like Higher Orbits realize their objectives of shaping the next generation of STEMists and future space workforce.

Aside from the opportunity to be involved in Higher Orbits programs like Go For Launch! and Space At Home, I am most grateful for experiences like attending professional conferences like SciTech and events like the International Astronautical Congress. These invaluable experiences not only enhance my understanding of the workings in and around the Space industry, it also affords me the opportunity to be able to network with industry professionals and gain valuable insight as well as establish connections with those who are the prime movers within the industry itself. With this year’s theme focused on Sustainability, I was able to get insider views from amazing keynote speakers like Retired NASA Administrator General Charles Bolden, Boeing’s VP and GM for Engineering Strategies & Operations’ Lynne Hopper, and lecturers like Alexis Stern who conducted a fun elevator pitch workshop with the Women Of Aeronautics and Astronautics, among the many scholarly presentations that helped expand our learning experiences to new heights.

Along with these of course, I am also grateful to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for always extending these tremendous opportunities to Higher Orbits students like me. Not only have the AIAA always supported Go For Launch! programs (like the Apollo Series I was fortunate enough to be part of back in 2019), AIAA also sees to it that we get access to these incredible enrichment programs and events, ensuring that students like me feel included and supported as we start to carve our path in this challenging but inspiring field.

One of the best parts of being able to participate in these programs is the ability to connect with my other fellow Higher Orbits alumni from across the country as well as our mentor, Michelle Lucas, who is never short of giving us guidance and advice as we continue to navigate our STEM journey along different paths. For this conference, I was able to team up with my amazing HO alumni Abby Maltese and Claire Pickerel, and as a bonus, we even met one of Higher Orbits’ staunch supporters and Board of Directors, author Francis French. As always, I can never fully say how much fun it is to be with people who are just as engaging and inspiring (and always up for a donut run at whatever time of day)! I am truly grateful to be part of this family, my Higher Orbits family, and I hope that our paths will continue to cross orbits now and many times more in the future.

As I continue to press on with my journey this year and throughout, I am ever so thankful for experiences like this that make me look forward to the future with much hope and inspiration. Space inspires, always!

About the author

Sophia Crowder – is a Student Ambassador for Higher Orbits, a STEMflights aviation scholar, a Space Coast Scholar of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium/NASA-Wallops, & founder of a girl-empowering initiative, #ItGirls. Sophie aspires to inspire the next generation of STEMists, Innovators, and Space Explorers with her work and advocacy. Her biggest aspiration is to be an innovator for the space program as an engineer and test pilot! Aside from STEM, Sophie is also an avid musician (she plays the violin and guitar), a trained fencer and martial artist, and a multi-awarded essayist, speaker, and student leader. She is a staunch advocate for gender equity and serves as a board member for Être Girls, as well as founded an initiative (ItGirls) to help empower other girls to pursue non-traditional career pathways such as those in IT & STEM. She is 16 years old



Sophie Crowder


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