Friday, March 21, 2008

Introducing Girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Tracy Sherman, AAUW Dialog, posted about her visit to AAUW Buffalo's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) day for 6th to 9th grade girls and their parents. What a great event! Perhaps we should plan something similar here.

Girls and STEM Education «
Throughout the day, more than 350 girls at Tech Savvy attended workshops where they learned about careers in dentistry, veterinary medicine, and nursing, as well as those with the FBI and NASA. While the girls were at these sessions, more than 200 parents learned about barriers girls face in these fields, how to encourage their daughters to enter these fields, legislation to diversify STEM fields, and how to prepare for college. The day closed with a keynote address by Camille Alleyne, an aerospace engineer at NASA and the founder and president of the Brightest Stars Foundation, an organization whose mission is to educate and empower young women to be future leaders in STEM. Hearing Camille’s life story of dreaming big and believing in herself inspired these girls to believe that they can — and will — be the next generation of scientists, engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians.
Photo of Jerrie Cobb next to a Mercury spaceship capsule from NASA public domain photos.

Since this is Women in History month, some history is in order:

Jerrie Cobb, already an accomplished pilot and on her way to being one of the world's best, became the first American woman to pass all three phases of NASA testing. Dr. Randy Lovelace, a NASA scientist who had conducted the official Mercury program physicals, administered the tests at his private clinic without official NASA sanction.

Cobb passed all the training exercises, ranking in the top 2 percent of all astronaut candidates. The results were announced in 1960 at a conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Lovelace and Cobb, financed by the world-renowned aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, recruited more women to take the tests.

All the women who participated in the program, known as First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLAT), were skilled pilots.

Cobb was sworn in as a consultant to NASA Administrator James Webb on the issue of women in space, but mounting political pressure and internal opposition lead the agency to restrict its official astronaut training program to men. After three years, Cobb left NASA for the jungles of the Amazon, where she has spent four decades as a solo pilot delivering food, medicine, and other aid to the indigenous people.

Cobb has received the Amelia Earhart Medal, the Harmon Trophy, the Pioneer Woman Award, the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award, and many other decorations for her tireless years of humanitarian service.

Although these FLAT women never flew in space, they paved the way for female astronauts like Sally Ride, Eileen Collins and many others that now support the U.S. Space Program.

Update 3/24/08 - I received this comment this morning:
This is a wonderful story you posted about Jerrie Cobb and the American Association of University Women.

Please see Jerrie's biography on our web site. She is still flying and doing marvelous things.

Check the web site: and check the 1999 calendar where her story is posted.

Happy Easter

Carol L. Osborne, Aviation Historian

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