In June, Girl Scout Cadette Maya Watson of Stamford was announced as one of four national winners in the Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition.
Maya joins a legacy of two other Girl Scouts from Connecticut who won the national title: Girl Scout Nicole Frese in 2011 and Girl Scout Mahlia Schneck in 2013. Maya plans to attend an award ceremony in Space Camp Alabama in October.
The implementation of STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) and encouraging young women and girls to take an interest in STEM, is a national trend. According to Ellyn Savard, STEM Initiatives Program Manager at Girl Scouts of Connecticut, all four winners participating in the 2015 competition were girls, including another Girl Scout from Oklahoma.
In the fall of 2014, NASA-trained astrophysicist David Mestre traveled to rocket builds in Bristol and Stamford where Maya and other Girl Scouts ages 10 – 14 learned how to build and launch rockets and participate in the competition. Troop leaders were also provided with templates, materials, and activities to be used in meetings to engage additional girls in STEM.
According to Savard, Mestre explained the principles and properties of the rocket design and introduced the three types of rockets that were used in the program. “It was a great experience, and I had fun doing it,” Maya said. “The goal was to learn how to make rockets, how to launch them, and why that happens. We were competing to see whose rocket could land the closest to the target.”
According to Savard, all rockets were launched at least twice, allowing the girls to learn from previous launches and each other: “They were able to make adjustments to improve outcomes, or simply learn how changing one variable will affect that outcome.”
Due to the wind, Savard said it was very difficult to land a rocket close to the target, which was 25 feet from the launch pad:
“The rocket supplier and the gentleman who runs the Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition always signed his correspondence with the salutation: ‘Wishing you light winds on launch day!’ I never realized how appropriate that was until I hosted my first Girl Scout rocket launch! Even a light breeze can carry a rocket hundreds of feet off course, so, Maya’s accomplishment is quite impressive.”
Maya said that participating in the rocket competition was a fun and rewarding experience. “I am so happy I was able to place, and I look forward to doing more STEM programs in the future with Girl Scouts.”
According to Savard, 95 percent of the girls involved in Girl Scouts of Connecticut’s rocket program said that they are more interested in STEM activities.
“We offer girls a safe environment in which they can feel free to experiment, try new activities which are traditionally male-centric, and learn about STEM careers from young women who are experts in their fields,” Savard said. “Girls were engaged 100 percent of the time in exciting hands-on activities, using concepts that were new to them, but important to their education. Thanks to funders like People’s United Community Foundation, we are able to prepare our girls for any careers which interest them -and STEM definitely interests our girls!”