The moment I stepped into the room where the Barbie STEM camp was taking place was very exciting. There was a small area where children from camp could dress up in costumes and play with different Barbies, and I went to sit down at the sofas on the right side of the stage.
At 9 am, kids were lining up outside and neatly coming in. In the crowd, I noticed Lisa Perry, Brand Manager, Barbie settling down on a little couch, facing sideways to the stage.
When all the kids put down their belongings, like backpacks etc., at the long tables, they all ran at the speed of lightening with booming excitement to the area where there were Barbies to play with and plenty of other things. Lisa Perry made a speech around the activities in the morning, like the Barbie launch to space while having the campers participate in the conversation.
I was so impressed by how Lisa Perry can make the audience, especially children, feel so comfortable that they would willingly ask or answer questions. Lisa speaks with joy and that joy will eventually spread and sink into the hearts of her audience, resulting them to feel the same.
Two engineers from Sent Into Space walked on the stage after Lisa finished her speech. They were actually from London, England. It touched me to think they came all the way from London to support and help in this event.
The engineers took turns introducing how the Barbie will be launched into space and how it works. They also reassured the campers that Barbie will land safely, and they have done enough testing and research, etc. The engineers said that the balloon will keep getting bigger until it reaches space, and that is when it would pop.
My mother and I actually met Natalie Panek, aerospace engineer, by accident. We went up to Natalie, but we didn’t know it was her yet. My mother asked her where we could find Natalie Panek and then we found out the lady standing in front of us was the person we were looking for. We quickly shook her hand and introduced ourselves. My heart was thumping so loudly in my chest. I was scared somebody could hear it and my face was beaming too.
The next time I saw and talked with Natalie was for my interview. We sat down at the left corner of that room, where there were tall chairs and a higher table, the ones you see beside the huge windows at Starbucks.
Natalie and I had a little fun chat before we started the serious business. Also, my mentor, Erica Ehm told me to always make the person I’m interviewing feel comfortable, so thank you Erica!
On the car ride to Fanshawe college, my brain was already visualizing the talk I would have with Natalie Panek. It was so mind-blowing to think that I could meet such a powerful woman who is so motivated to support girls and women in STEM. In fact, I am also very fascinated by the wonders of space and every little speck of information I obtain about it. Now, I was about to interview an expert in this area.
Q. What is Aerospace Engineering?
A. Aerospace engineering has two streams: Aviation or Space Exploration. Aviation is the study of planets; Space exploration is the building of technology, like space telescopes, etc., to explore and study things. Keep in mind that engineers and scientists are not the same. Engineers build all the technology that scientists use to study.
Q. Why is it important to advocate for Women and Girls in science?
A. Having more women and girls involved in sciences introduces more diverse backgrounds to solve the challenging problems we face. It’s always best to have different perspectives and backgrounds at the table when trying to problem solve or create new inventions or solutions. There are more people to think about all the various stages of design and bring the technology to the world.
Q. What inspired you to do or be who you are today?
A. Growing up I loved space and craved to become an astronaut. When I was younger, I went camping with my family and wanted to explore space and I’ve always tried to gain more experience. I learned to fly a plane and build solar powered cars in university; although I haven’t been to space yet, maybe there will be an opportunity one day.
Natalie and I also spent a few more minutes having a fun conversation together. I got the chance to privately ask her some questions, about things like AI. I loved having the opportunity to ask her about these fascinating topics.
I had the opportunity to learn so much useful information from Natalie and I feel so motivated and even more determined to support girls who don’t feel confident in their own strengths - because nobody should feel that way. There is no ability gap when it comes to girls and boys in sciences, so why should girls believe that is true?
I was also thrilled to have a talk with Lisa Perry. She is such a kind and warm-hearted lady, and I can feel the warmth and sparkle she carries around her wherever she goes.
Q. Why is it important for girls to be in STEM?
A. STEM careers are underrepresented by women, and it’s important to show girls that they can discover and have curiosity about STEM. It’s important to show girls that they can be anything and that they have limitless potential. Today, we’re hoping to inspire girls to explore STEM by sending Barbie to space shows girls that science can be fun!
Q. Do you think it’s important for girls or women to pursue a career in science and technology and Why?
A. Yes, of course! It’s important so they can follow their passions and dream big whether it is STEM careers, or Journalism. It’s important for girls to believe that they can be anything. Working with STEM camp is helping close the dream gap and show girls that they have limitless potential in ANY career.
Remember, everyone has astounding hidden powers that make them a unique and powerful human being. Nobody is worse or better than anybody else. Your gender doesn’t affect anything that has to do with your strengths and your dreams. Pursue your passions and do the things you love because you are the person making the choices that lead you into certain paths in the future. Don’t let others choose your path for you. You owe yourself to become everything you want to be.
The Barbie Launch to Space event’s highline began after everyone rushed outside. The staff and crew stood in the back to observe while the STEM campers and I sat down in front of the stage. Afrodite and Lisa stood up on stage to make a quick speech before the launch. The Barbie tied to the balloon was right beside them, ready for the heart-thundering moment coming, the count down.
When it was down to the last three seconds, my heart was jumping up and down. When everyone counted down to 0, we cheered, and Barbie was let loose. She floated higher and higher and becoming tinier and tinier. It flew into the sky and at the speed of lightening and within minutes, all we could see was a tiny dot.
Here is more proof that girls and women who are forced to believe that they are small and have no strength can achieve fantastical things: hard work and perseverance are what will lead us to our goal, no matter what our goal is.
Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams and passions. Why? The answer is simple: you can be anything.