I was only in sixth grade when I discovered my fascination with space.
I began to look at photos of planets, stars, and galaxies with a new perspective of wonder and admiration. Space exploration fascinated me, and how impossibly small the world is in the infinite plane of the cosmos utterly astonished me.
I knew that I was passionate about space, but what did that mean for me?
At the time, when I thought of an engineer, what immediately came to mind was a brainy man building machines in a factory.
An aerospace engineer sounded equally intimidating. So, as I prepared for my first year at Space Camp after my seventh-grade year, I was terrified not only that I would be one of the only girls there but that everyone would know way more about space than I did.
Upon arrival at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, I pleasantly realized that the camp consisted of almost an equal number of boys and girls, which settled my initial nerves a bit.
After spending a week with my fellow “Atlas” teammates, I discovered that all of us were at that camp not because we already knew a lot about space and space exploration, but to learn about our shared passion, encouraging and challenging each other along the way.
Space camp further increased my passion and educated me on the specific options available in a STEM field that I’m passionate about. This STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education has allowed me to pursue my passions in a way that seventh-grade me did not even realize existed.
Space Camp has allowed me to hear from astronauts about their journeys into the program and given me added confidence and teamwork to work with my school’s robotics teams.
Our education system must cultivate youth who are genuinely excited, interested, and passionate about the advancement of STEM by providing ample opportunities for STEM education because true devotion to the advancement of our life on Earth yields breakthroughs in our universe as we know it.
Space camp offered me an insight into furthering my passion in the future by providing me the opportunity to grow my love for STEM.
I encourage young students interested in STEM to take the chance on the opportunities that arise because you never know what interest may develop into your true passion.
Sydney Slay, now a junior at the Hockaday School, began appearing in the paper in 2017 when she and her Hockadaisies teammates earned a trip to California by taking third place in the North Texas First Lego League tournament sponsored by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. This is her debut as a writer for the paper.