Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

A few years ago I met a guy that works at JPL. We all treated him like a rock star and with reason: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is every engineering nerds dream job, right up there with Skunk Works and Disney’s Imagineers. My pal has pictures with every actor and director involved in space movies, as their mock ups are borrowed and used in films like Interstellar and Armageddon. Shortly after meeting him, his team told me they were hiring. Had I read Donna Shirley’s Managing Martians sooner, I would have been all in, even if it meant moving to Pasadena, CA.

Asking around, I knew there had to be more stories about the women that worked there. What I wasn’t expecting was that there would be so many! You see, depending on the statistics and who you ask, there is at least 18% of women in engineering. Companies like GE want to #BalanceTheEquation and hire over 20,000 women into leadership positions. The cool part is JPL has been hiring women since the age of the human computers, and one of these women, Sue Finley, has actually been there so long she is one of NASA’s longest tenured employees. 50+ until her retirement in 2016.

The book itself features the story of a few of the women following them from the moment they got hired through multiple pregnancies, and rehirings. Women didn’t have the luxury of maternity leave so their opportunity to serve ended the moment they started to show. Barbara Paulson, Helen Ling, Macie, Margie, Sue, Silvia and Ginny stand out off the top of my head, with many more serving their country and science valiantly. Check out their stories and the cool satellite images inside the book. Nathalia Holt did a wonderful job relaying the story of these marvelous women. The Rocket Girls will always reign supreme; we honor their memory reaching for the stars, building atop their legacy.

To infinity and beyond!

seaQuest DSV (NBC)

If you ever wondered about what things hardcore nerds treasure is cult classic shows. Although Netflix and other sources aren’t blasting that they have the episodes of this undersea drama, my hope is that they bring them back soon. It has the best of both worlds, the real science of deep water exploration with the fantasy of monsters, civilizations and talking dolphin crew members. Never did I imagine a fictitious submarine and its crew would teach me so much about compassion, adventure and friendship. Having hot teen idol Jonathan Brandis was a plus that enhanced the experience and drew an audience to the content that wouldn’t have made much waves otherwise.

SeaQuest DSV / SeaQuest DSV

Roy Scheider (Jaws) plays Captain Bridger, a character that mirrored the best of all the Star Trek men at the helm. In similar fashion, his group of rag-tag voyagers sets to fulfill missions for the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO), accompanied by Darwin the talking dolphin. Set in the distant future of 2018, 25 years from the first air date in 1993, the intention of the show was to entertain using drama and veritable scientific advances to exalt the importance of conserving our planet and discovering the treasures of the depths of our own planet. At some point they pick up Dagwood (Peter DeLouise), who is of an alien looking genetically engineered lifeform.

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Even though the episodes eventually devolved into SyFy channel worthy material, cheese and out there, I recall it was a worthy endeavor. Spielberg was attached to it during the first two seasons and the main crew changes kept it interesting. Many of the episodes had meaning and social criticism morsels that garnered the series some awards and consideration among scientists and sci-fi organizations. As the series ventured into the realm of the ridiculous, Michael Ironside replaced a disappointed and mad as hell Roy Scheider as the captain during the last season. Set in 2032, after the deep submergence vehicle, DSV 4600, was feared missing for 10 years, the crew returns after being abducted by aliens, X-Files style.

If this synopsis doesn’t convince you. Check out Playtime, one of the episodes I do remember fondly. Its story touched on the perils of virtual reality, taking the ship on a land mission into a society in which only two people remained. The kicker? The two people didn’t realize they weren’t the last citizens because they were strapped to their virtual reality machines. It resonates to this day: put down your phone and recording devices and start living life people!

Enjoy!

P.S. I just recalled I had a 1:24 scale DIY model of the DSV. Man, you could tell I was well on my way to become and engineer and this show exponentially accelerate that drive and passion.


Genius (NatGeo)

Albert Einstein was one of the greatest minds in physics. His unruly hair and grand ideas about the cosmos have changed the way we think about gravity, time and space. The eccentric character he possessed made him an icon in Switzerland, Germany and beyond, as he dared to challenge the Reich twice! Even after his discoveries were used to create the bombs that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki he remained relevant and revered for his humanitarianism. A truly amazing man.

His life wasn’t all roses and accolades though, and NatGeo does a superb job at piecing together the life of this true genius. From his love live, marriages and children to his journey as a student and patent clerk, they bring his softer side to light despite the shortcomings if his arrogance and callousness. The parade of scientific contemporaries, the likes of Marie Curie and Planck, make the show a remarkable geek and nerdgasm. Imagine living in those times and knowing the people we now credit for Nobel worthy discoveries. Time machine anyone?

If you have a moment, consider binging on this extravagant yet realistic view inside the science that shaped the 20th century. We wouldn’t be here without the application of the work these fine scientists. Their lives are very much worth celebrating and honoring on the small screen. Truly an inspiration for all of us who endeavor to reach, literally, for the stars. The men and women behind the curtain are truly admirable and interesting. The patriotism and overwhelming uncertainty of the first half of the 1900s palpable as it was an honor to advance science and engineering to win and end wars. A different take on history, if there ever could be one.

Watch on demand on NatGeo.

Prost!

AerosPACE Flyoff and Awards Ceremony

After 8 months of hard work, the university teams had the opportunity to fly and prove that their autopilot programs worked. The event took place at Ball Ground’s Model Airplane field and we had a few people from the model association moderating the field. Our team lead gave a short safety briefing and off they went!

Overall, the teams did really well with their design and manufacturing plans. All of them flew ahead of the competition but we still had two crashes occur before they could test out the UAV’s autopilots. Even though the teams had self impossed missions to perform the competition doesn’t require proof of concept, just functional flying aircraft.

Clemson, Purdue, BYU, Tuskegee, Everett Community College, and GA Tech participated in this year’s cohort sponsored by Boeing, Siemens and Dassault. We had a guy from NASA show up too which was cool becausw he is also an astronaut! Thanks to the success of the program it looks like they may be adding additional schools for the 2017-2018 season. 🙂 The students had fun and we did too. Hopefully they learned how to build something better. Hehe

Congrats guys and gals!

QuirkBooks: Keeping Nerd Awesome One Book At A Time

During the Emerald City Comic Con I had the idea of swinging by the QuirkBooks booth about an hour before the convention ended and walked into a frenzied discounted product sale! Woop woop! Their add in the event’s program guide piqued my interest because they carried a book called Wonder Women and once I got there they had so many geektastic offerings that it was hard to walk away with just one. The staff was very generous and gave visitors the last of the tote bags with lots of freebies and goodies. 😆😊

The first item I picked out to read from the stuffed goodie bag was Stuff Every Geek Should Know. This thin booklet didn’t have a bar code on it or ISBN so assume they must give it away for free at Cons and special events. My only regret is that I didn’t take more because my friends would love owning one of these manuals to ensure successful geek coexistence with the real world. 🤓😛 Their bit about hacking your online profile, naming children after your favorite characters and ways for nerds and geeks to make friends at cons were hilariously accurate. Their advice was dead on! Can’t wait to try it.

I liked the rhetoric and aloof writing style so much I decided to review the offerings I purchased by blog article to share them with my peeps and future readers. My hope is y’all visit the store’s webpage and sponsor the endeavor. It was really cool to finally find material I could relate to and enjoy. I’d like to contribute to their success too!

Wonder Women


Sam Maggs wrote a compilation of stories that focus on women who are recognized as pioneers and overachievers in their respective fields. Illustrated by Sophia Foster-Dimino, gorgeously designed page backgrounds are filled with factual data and quirks about each selected superstar. Great book to inspire and teach children of all genders and orientations about the achievements of female scientists, innovators, adventurers and even spies that shaped our modern world. 🔬🔬🔬🔬

The Geek’s Guide To Dating

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Have you ever wondered how geeks manage to navigate relationships successfully? Are you stuck in the dating world’s Neutral Zone? Do you need bonafide geek advice to find your Player Two? This book will help you figure out what kind of nerd you are and what steps to take to find a quest-mate. Although it relates to dating it can also help you build any type of relationship, reagardless of geek status and gender or sexual preferences. Be prepared to honestly take stock of your character stats and get your stores in order to embark on this hilarious journey of introspective self discovery. The geek references alone are worth every copper piece spent! (This book is a good read for the married geeks looking to spark things up again, nerd style.) 😄😄😄😄

Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture, Edited by Steven H Segal

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Filled with quotes from around Nerdom, this book will remind any geek and nerd why they fell in love with the sci-fi and fantasy genres in the first place. Asimov, Huxley, Ralph Wiggum and Mae Jemison, to name a few, are featured in this work to remind us that many of the truisms and phrases we use daily come from our beloved geek heroes; the people who shaped the sci-fi, fantasy and actual scientific writings into mainstream speak. Reading its pages reminded me of my childhood and upbringing, of the many one liners I drop on people hoping they understand where I am coming from, to find my tribe. Excellent gift for nerds, geeks and posers alike. 🤓🤓🤓🤓

Enjoy!

Metal Earth DIY: Cinderella’s Carriage

Disney made a deal with the makers of Metal Earth to design DIY model kits based on their most popular characters and films. These are available for purchase on site at the Disney parks or can be found in museums, online and in certain novelty stores. Favorite designs include Star Wars Star Destroyers, R2-D2, X-Wing, The Black Pearl, 3D Castles and Cinderella’s Carriage.

The models can be put together using tweezers and pliers since the manufactuter touts that “no glue is required” to join the pieces. Sadly, the Cinderella’s Carriage model my coworker got me as a gift didn’t live up to that expectation. The undercarriage got fatigued and broke off as I was putting it together and although salvageable, other components buckled and broke off resulting in the loss of many valuable pieces and aesthetics.

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Metal Earth, Cinderella’s Carriage. 

Ironically, we ended up needing to glue some of it together. To add insult to injury, the instructions were not super easy to follow nor sequenced optimally so some improvisation was required. Read the entire manual before commencing to ensure success. After 6 hrs of hard work the final product was ready for display. Yay! It came out looking good but not great, and I have the scars to prove it. 😦 The part holder edges are extremely sharp!

Many of these Metal Earth kits will have you cursing rather than enjoying your evening without the appropriate tools or approach. Check Amazon for tool kits specially made and marketed for this hobby. Not recommended for the faint of heart or people with kids under 3 due to small parts. Rated 14+.

Enjoy!

Success Strategies from Women in Stem: A Portable Mentor (Book)

Written by Peggy A. Pritchard and Christine Grant, this book turned out to be a must have for any woman interested in or pursuing a career in STEM. I was fortunate to have gotten this book as a thank you gift from my organization for attending the Women of Color in STEM conference. Released in 2015 as a companion to the book  Success Strategies for Women in Science: A Portable Mentor. These two books have been updated to keep up with social media trends and developments.

The book sums up my experiences at the seminars and sessions to the point I found it eerie. The bottom line is that women in math, science, tech and math need to stand together to break through the glass ceiling making sure they employ strategies that enable them to become strong independent leaders and advocates for women in the workforce and for their respective fields. The advice in this book is stellar and can be life changing for those looking for wisdom, encouragement or enlightenment regardless of gender.

I must admit that by the end of the discussion it becomes very clear that women still have to adapt their styles to please men and be perceived as technical experts. It is a sad realization but one must play the game to win and to effect and affect social change. At some point the board tables will be full of women that can attest that progress has been made and sustained in terms of pay and gender equality. This is an excellent book for young women looking to start a career path in STEM and an eye opening text for those who want to mentor and coach women into high up positions.

If we build it, they will rise…

#STEMisAGirlThing

The women of STEM are fearless. They helped build the foundations for the technology we enjoy today. They are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, friends whose fierceness is admirable because they defied the odds to get to where they are today. Many take for granted the ability to go to school, later to college and acquire a degree that will open the door to a long and successful career. Some of the women in STEM were the first to earn a degree for their kind, and some for their countries and ethnicity as recent as last year. It is amazing to have met the leaders of the past, present and future during my days at the Women of Color conference in Detroit, MI (2016). A true blessing to have been selected to attend.

The conference aims to explore the stories and struggles of the women in science, engineering, math and technology. Open to all, you will see men and women of all colors, backgrounds and sizes walking through the COBO Center. The ultimate goal is to network, listening and learning about the many ways one can further a career with grace, diplomacy, and compassion proactively and effectively. As an audience, your only job is to internalize the information and become self aware; to let go of the biases and impediments that you impose on yourself and your professional development.

At every seminar gifts are bestowed upon the brave souls that dare to speak to the crowd and participate by asking questions. What surprised me was that some of these give aways include books! First conference ever where I see this occur. It is true what they say, knowledge is power, and wisdom and enlightenment is exactly what you will take home. The fact that women planned and executed this event for the betterment of womankind is remarkable. With unity comes strength and at the WOC there is no cat fighting and backstabbing allowed; we come together to raise each other and further woman equality and pride in the workforce. We are blessed to be together from all over the world to celebrate the technology stars of today.

If you can, check out their website and enroll for next year. Dare to nominate yourself too. This experience is best lived than described. Plus Detroit isn’t so bad either.

Exception to the Rule

We all want to be considered exceptional, stellar, and unique. It is our desire to be seen as different, avant garde and ahead of the curve. However, being a true exception to the rule is never easy and may require a lot of patience, sacrifice and fortitude to overcome the challenges that come with the position. In many cases you must show that your talents or circumstances are unique and that your life, goals or effort matters more than the rule. Because of the unique quality of the predicament people may shy away from or condemn you because they cannot relate to your reality. Don’t lose hope! The value of an exceptional person is measured by the plight of their story and the richness of their far out ideas. People will come around once they understand or comprehend that drives and motivates you to keep on trekking is beneficial to the world.

At the Women of Color conference I met a lot of exceptions to the rule. There were women who came from poverty and/or escaped war torn countries. Several had to fight misogyny and prejudice to earn and keep scholarships during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Many recounted how they had to prove everyone wrong, including their families and peers, to be recognized and promoted in acedemia and their current STEM field. I was amazed at how women, and minorities have struggled to become educated and pioneers in their respective areas of research and development, their stories now surfacing as we attempt to reach a healthy balance between diversity and inclusive in the workforce.

If you have a chance,  check out the book and movie called Hidden Figures. It was heavily featured during the conference and features Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as the trio of Black Women who coded for the first NASA space missions enabling the astronauts to reach the moon. These ladies eventually earned world renown due to their mathematical, science and engineering prowess even though many of us had never heard or seen them sharing the spotlight. At the time, they were exceptions in a society that devalued women’s intellect and the black race’s worth. They exemplify the courage and will power ir takes to defy the standards attributed to your gender and to rise in an environment that shuns your participation because of your gender.

To me, what makes us at one point or another exceptions to the rule, is our need to dare to to what others may find taboo or impossible. Once upon a time taking a breastfeeding pump into an office space was unheard of and could cost you your job. Now, thanks to the enterprising spirit of the corporate women of the 80s, we have Mother’s Rooms or safe spaces to pump and work in peace. Regardless of how you feel about the LGBTQIA community, we are starting to see bathrooms as the unisex entities that they are and to stop fearing the lovely people who chose to identify with the gender that better suits their pursuits and state of mind. During the Vietnam War, the high incidence of maiming resulted in a need to redo the way we addressed physical disabilities and mobility access to welcome back our heroes. The ramp on the sidewalk we take for granted was made possible by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Everyone has a right to live in peace, protected by the constitution, and it is up to us to learn to embrace the exceptions to the rule to make progress as a society.

Not all exceptions to the rule are good but make sure you don’t lose your identity and peace of mind trying to conform to a society that would be better served by your uniqueness. In many ways having an iPhone X or a car, heck even an education, doesn’t make you feel like the exception to the rule because those items are so common but, statistically speaking, you are part of the top 2% of the world’s population that enjoys these commodities.  The other 98% of the planet doesn’t have all this plus the liberties of a stable democratic government. Think about it for a second. Just because you were born stateside you are already ahead of the game. You are already exceptional.

If you have the intestinal fortitude treat everyone as if they are extraordinary. Don’t assume the hooded kid is out to mischief, or use to determine the type of safety threat underneath. When you see a human being harrassed don’t assume they deserve it or that someone else will help them. Clear your unconscious bias and replace them with factual conclusions and opinions. Become more knowledgeable about the rules and its exceptions. Embrace and effect change.

Dare to build something better…

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