HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Students of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering got a special presentation of the film “Hidden Figures,” and afterward they got to have a Q&A with NASA’s “Modern Figures.”
To kick of Engineer’s Week, ASCTE had special guests Dr. Shelia Nash-Stevenson and retired Aerospace Engineer Rosalynne Strickland of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center to answer students’ questions about what it’s like to work for the prestigious agency.
Both women were thrilled to not only speak to students but to also remind them of what a great opportunity it is to be a part of the school.
Strickland reminisced on her opportunity at Auburn University, where she was introduced to engineering through The Minority Introduction to Engineering Program, and how lucky the students are to have a school dedicated to STEM.
“Having a school dedicated to that is so important. I was really excited to be here, to encourage the students and to let them know to take advantage of this opportunity,” Strickland told News 19, Strickland earned a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Alabama.
In her 34 years at NASA, Strickland achieved many goals. She became the first Software Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer. She was awarded numerous awards, most notably Director Commendations, the NASA Silver Achievement Medal, Space Flight Awareness Honoree, and the Silver Snoopy.
While watching “Hidden Figures” with the students, Strickland said it was important for all to watch this film, boy or girl because it shows just what young determination can do, “The resiliency of women in the workplace I think that’s really an important thing,” she added, “Math doesn’t have a gender, if you love it, do it.”
After the film ended, students turned their seats and were able to pick the brains of these marvelous women, from what it was like to work for NASA to advice on how to keep pushing and striving. Dr. Nash-Stevenson, like Strickland, was the first of many. In 1994 she was the first African American female in Alabama to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Alabama A&M University.
In 2016, she was chosen by NASA to represent the agency at the “Hidden Figures” Red Carpet Premiere in New York City as a “Modern Figure.” She says this movie has done so much for the future of NASA. She not only represented NASA at the premiere, but she also participated in numerous interviews encouraging girls and African Americans to pursue STEM degrees and careers.
“With this story coming out, it’s just opened the eyes of a lot of people across the world to know how beneficial having a diverse population is, and getting a job done,” Dr. Nash-Stevenson said. “Because of this movie now, people are asking questions now.”
Dr. Nash-Stevenson said this movie gives people the opportunity to really reach their full potential, “Like I tell my students, reach as far and as high as you possibly can, because even if you fall, you’ll fall among the stars.”
According to ASCTE, “Today’s event was part of the week-long events to celebrate Engineer’s Week. Students participated in daily events throughout Engineer’s Week, including Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Partners in education supported the week’s events by providing speakers and interactive activities.”