STEM Symposium Highlights: A Surprise Visit from Sally Ride

Astronaut Sally Ride was the first American woman–and the youngest person ever– to go to space. She was 32.

Benjamin Franklin wasn’t the STEM Symposium’s only blast from the past. Sally Ride (1951-2012), the first American woman in space, also stopped by. With her helmet in hand, Ride told students all about her two space flights in 1983 and 1984. Ride was training for her third mission in 1986 when the Challenger exploded, and was subsequently assigned to the Rogers Commission, which investigated the accident. Ride also investigated the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003, and is the only person to have investigated both accidents.

Our “Sally” passed out autographed handouts about NASA centers and education opportunities.

Ride was passionate about STEM and STEM education. After her NASA career, she taught physics at Stanford. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, which developed STEM curriculum for teachers and students, with an emphasis on girls in STEM. Ride also coauthored many books for kids about spaceflight. Her passion for STEM was embodied by her impersonator, who asked “Who wants to be an astronaut?”

The best part, she said, was talking to girls about how they could be astronauts, too. “We learn about Thomas Edison and Neil Armstrong, but not about Hedy Lamarr or Sally Ride,” she said. “It’s time to change the narrative so that girls know they have role models too.”

Our acting Sally Ride with the Business Women’s Giving Circle attendees. From left: Ashleigh Dorfman, events and development director at Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce; Lauri Isbrandsten, formerly of Lockheed Martin; Sally; Faith Boettger, BWGC chair; Leigh Chowdhary, CEO of LC Consulting, Communications, and Marketing Services.

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Related: National Figures Past and Present Attend 2017 STEM Symposium

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