Vail Daily column: Foundation hopes to inspire future scientists | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Foundation hopes to inspire future scientists

Heather Hower

The night of July 31 beheld the first blue moon in three years — and it will be another three years till we witness this huge, luminous light in the sky again. While a blue moon is something to witness with revere and awe, seeing women and girls launch into space shouldn't be such a phenomena. Having women and girls focus on science shouldn't be unusual. It should be part of the norm of what's expected and welcomed.

Dr. Anna L. Fisher

The first mother in space will share her journey — from being a scientist to astronaut, pausing for a few years to be at home, then returning to be part of the atmosphere. Dr. Anna L. Fisher will share her inspirational story of not only being the first mother in space, but how science has formed her life's path when she speaks at The Women's Foundation of Colorado Vail Valley Luncheon on Wednesday.

Raise Your Hand

As more careers open up for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) devotees, fewer women are stepping up to fill these jobs. Starting in elementary school, girls choose to stop raising their hands. The Women's Foundation of Colorado hopes to inspire young future scientists like Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut; Andrea Mueller, rocket scientist and race car engineer and Dr. Fisher.

Reach for your Dreams

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Mueller raced cars growing up but soon realized being a professional racer wasn't in her future. Instead of dropping her dream, she altered her path and focused on being a mechanical engineer. Just as much as she wants to have fun, and be part of a successful team (which she is — on the winning Penske Racing team since 2012), she wants to see more females in the garage, using science as a path to success.

Mueller hopes that more girls will reach for their dreams and know that gender doesn't matter when fixing an engine or solving a complicated formula … that women realize they can do whatever they want.

Just as Mueller never let her gender sway her devotion to engineering, Ellen Ochoa was persistently determined to be part of the NASA space program. In total Ochoa served on four space missions, using her background in science to help her soar.

Complacency Doesn't Work

Complacency doesn't work with Ochoa: She has a BS in physics, a master's of science and doctorate in electrical engineering. She was tapped as an astronaut in 1990 and rocketed into outer space in 1993, eventually earning more than 1,000 space-flight hours.

Then there's Dr. Fisher. She was in the first class of women to head to space in 1978 — this is after she graduated with a BS in chemistry in 1971, an MD (specializing in emergency medicine) in 1976, but before, she earned her MS in chemistry in 1987. Dr. Fisher was in the same group as Dr. Sally Ride, another woman with a passion, flair and dedication to science.

Dr. Ride had a head start to becoming an astronaut with a doctorate in physics as well as a degree in English. But it was her tenacity that gave her the moxie to answer the call when NASA was searching for astronauts (all of whom had been men up to that point, mostly from the military). Eight thousand applied and 35 became part of the astronaut corps.

It's clear with a background in science, with the perseverance to study atoms to zero-point energy, girls can not only reach for the stars but they can fly among them. We invite you to join us to be a catalyst to keep girls learning, to help girls find and maintain their focus and to thrive in their STEM careers.

Heather Hower is an editor, writer and mother on WFCO's Vail Valley Regional Committee.

If you go …

Who: The Women’s Foundation of Colorado – Vail Valley Regional Committee

What: Annual Luncheon & Raffle with Keynote Speaker NASA Astronaut Anna. L. Fisher

When: Aug. 12, 11 a.m.-1:45 p.m. New this year: WFCO Cafe coffee bar and bucket raffle from 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

Where: Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, Vail.

For ticket purchase or community partnerships, visit http://www.wfco.org/vailluncheon