NASA HOSTS FUTURE FEMALE EXPLORERS THROUGH WISH PROGRAM
NASA’s Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars (WISH) program gives young women the opportunity to see science and engineering out in the real world, with NASA as the context. The young women collaborate with other females from across the country on a unique design project while stationed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, home of Mission Control and the astronaut corps. They work with NASA JSC engineers and co-ops/interns on the project, and they are required to present their mission to NASA personnel and community leaders. The skills developed during the WISH program can be directly applied not only in their education but also in other future jobs they hold.
Last summer, 84 female high school students from 29 states planned a simulated mission to Mars and experienced life as an engineer or scientist. The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students were rising high school seniors and worked alongside female NASA mentors to form teams to develop mission plans for launching to Mars, living and working there, and integrating the many components necessary for a successful planetary mission. As part of the program, they worked within the confines of a fictitious budget and built several small mockups of vehicles to demonstrate a successful launch and landing of the Mars spacecraft.
“WISH gives some of our brightest future innovators a chance to experience some of the exciting challenges that NASA engineers and scientists face on a daily basis,” said Ellen Ochoa, NASA Johnson Space Center Deputy Director and former astronaut. “It shows the young women that there are a variety of opportunities for them in technical fields.”
In the past, the young women in the WISH program are privy to a first-hand accounts of life in space from former astronauts and have the chance to speak with current International Space Station crews through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, a NASA educational initiative that facilitates direct links between students and astronauts in space through “ham” radio.
One student from the 2012 program shared the following thoughts on the program:
“Thank you so much for organizing the WISH program. The week was truly one of the best experiences of my life and I will cherish the girls I met, the lessons I learned, and the opportunities at NASA forever. It was an incredible week and I can’t begin to thank you and the other instrumental organizers for facilitating this week. I met so many interesting girls from all over the US who share the same interests as I do and I plan to stay in contact with these girls throughout the future. It was also an incredible experience because we were introduced to revolutionary NASA figures like Gene Kranz, Norman Chaffe, Shannon Walker, Jerry Woodfill and current engineers who are transforming the way we think about space exploration. I worked on designing the Portable Life Support System on the Space Suit for the mars mission and it lit a spark for me. In the future I think I want to be a space-suit engineer. I was astonished at the abundance of opportunities at NASA and can see myself there in the future. Thank you so much for providing us girls the opportunity to be involved in this program…”
The young women are selected annually based on completion of interactive, online lessons focused on space exploration and mapped to national education standards, academic merits, and geographic diversity. The WISH program encourages young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees and exposes them to the real-world applications of STEM careers at NASA. The program was initially was formed as NASA’s response to the White House Council on Women and Girls through the Women@NASA program.
To learn more about the program and how to participate, visit http://wish.aerospacescholars.org.
Watch a video of the young girls speaking to astronaut Joe Acaba on board the ISS!