4th Sharing Our Success – Loudoun

Sandra Mangus, Ph.D. and former NASA Astronaut, discussing engineering with GIT girls
Sandra Mangus, Ph.D. and former NASA Astronaut, discussing engineering with GIT girls

It was a packed house on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at Orbital ATK in Dulles, VA. Girls in Technology (GIT) held its fourth “Sharing our Success” event, welcoming girls in grades 6 through 12 from Loudoun, Fauquier, and Western Fairfax County. GIT, led by a committee of Women in Technology (WIT), is dedicated to instilling confidence and professionalism in girls throughout the Metro DC area. GIT’s focus is to “Dream Big with STEAM”, encouraging girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math.

The girls (and parents) quickly realized on Thursday night that they were in for the experience of a lifetime. They shared the room with Sandy Mangus, former NASA Astronaut and current Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Mangus spoke to the girls about how she made her dream of becoming an astronaut a reality by first following her passion for science and engineering.

Mangus said that to her, math is simply a language – the language of engineering. Early in her life, she latched onto physics, and then electrical engineering. Engineering then led her to material science–the focus of her PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology. Material science eventually led her to NASA.

Children's Science Center exhibit
Children’s Science Center exhibit

Mangus took three trips on the shuttle, logging 157 days, 8 hours, and 42 minutes in space. She said the space station is a busy place. Every mission, her goal was to complete research and maintenance. During her off time, her favorite activity was taking pictures of the Earth as it rotated. She said her favorite part of the Earth look at was a tie between the swirling blues of the Caribbean during the day and the thunderstorms that look like fireworks all over the Earth at night. The space food she liked the least? Meatloaf.

The girls had great questions for Mangus, from what gravity feels like the first time you have to stand up again, to whether or not she ate space ice cream (always available at the National Air & Space Museum Gift Shop). She talked about the fact that she is constantly learning, and that one thing she learned at NASA was that there is more than one solution to every problem. It just depends on what outcome you are looking for.

After Mangus wrapped up her Q&A, the girls networked and checked out demonstrations from a wide array of local STEAM groups/companies.

Participants included:

The Potomac School Exhibit booth
The Potomac School Exhibit booth
  • Belmont Ridge GIT Vex Robotics Team
  • Noldus-EthoVisionXT
  • the Children’s Science Center
  • Northern VA Community College Geospatial Applications
  • Northern Virginia Community College SysTEMIC Solutions
  • the National Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
  • C3 Cyber Club
  • Falls Church HS GiTech (Girls in Technology Club): CyberPatriot Team, STEAMd
  • Ashburn Robotics Geared Up!
  • Cortona Academy
  • Potomac School Robotics
  • Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
  • Team America Rocketry Challenge
  • Orbital ATK
April 2015 SOS Experience winners
April 2015 SOS Experience winners

To wrap it all up, GIT girls won extraordinary prizes from local companies and government agencies. Aviation Adventures gifted an “Adventure Flight” with a certified flight instructor out of Warrenton-Fauquier Airport, and the airport itself gave out several tours to middle schoolers that included networking time with aviation and air traffic professionals.

Dominion Engineering Inc. offered up two lab tours, the FAA donated five tours of an Air Traffic Facility, and the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center graciously gave four behind-the-scenes tours of their conservation lab. Telos gave away two tours that included lunch with its executives, and Cortona Academy offered up five spots for a workshop on 3-D printing, including an introduction to Makerbot.

Student Reporters with Norma Henry, GIT
Student Reporters with Norma Henry, GIT

This “Sharing Our Success” event was fantastic. The GIT committee thanks Orbital ATK for their time and involvement, all the companies and agencies that donated to the night’s prizes, and all the companies that provided demonstrations for the girls. A special thank-you goes out to Sandy Mangus for inspiring the girls to follow their dreams and forever learn new things.

The Girls in Technology committee hosts 4-6 ‘Sharing Our Success’ events and a mentor protégé program in the DC Metro area each year. Visit http://www.womenintechnology.org/git for upcoming event details. If you are interested in serving on an SOS panel, or as a mentor, contact Mary Ann Glueckert at masglueckert@verizon.net or Norma Henry at nrayehenry@gmail.com .

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