Hutchinson High School student Madeleine Girard has spent much of her life intrigued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. So it’s easy to imagine her excitement when she received a letter from Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon.
“I was excited,” she said. “I opened it up — it looked formal. It had the NASA seal on it.”
The letter, it turned out, was an invitation from Aldrin, who now serves as the science director of the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists, to attend the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders in Boston, Mass. Girard was invited based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and passion for science and technology, according to the letter.
“It was fun to read, and then it said to go online and submit your name if you want to do this,” Girard said. She did.
Someone had to have nominated her. The letter informed Girard the person was likely a family member or teacher.
“We’re not really sure who,” she said Monday afternoon. “I don’t know of anyone who would have done that … I haven’t done anything that would separate me from others.”
Girard is a member of the National Honor Society. As part of the society, she has been invited to name her interests, and become involved in online communities that discuss those interests. Among those listed by Girard are science and technology.
At Hutchinson High School, Girard is enrolled in chemistry and physics classes.
“Math and science have always come easily to me,” she said. “I’m really interested in NASA and space.”
Pat Walsh, principal at Hutchinson High School, said he wasn’t sure who nominated Girard. “It can come from a number of places. They get information from tests and ACTs,” he said. “And she’s great at math and sciences.”
Girard is only a junior, but she has a solid idea of where she wants to end up. She has already visited the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
“It was amazing. They have a really good engineering program,” Girard said. “I really want to go there and be some type of engineer.”
The purpose of the three-day conference is to help guide and motivate students in the United States toward careers in science and technology. In Boston, Girard will join students from across the country and hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading scientific research. She will be able to ask the advice of university deans.
“I hope to meet (Aldrin),” Girard said.
“This is a crucial time in America when we need more nimble-minded and creative scientists and technologists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” said Richard Rossi, executive direction of the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists, in a press release.
The Academy offers free services and programs to students having the desire to learn more about their future in science or technology. Some of those services and programs are online social networks through which scientists and technologists can communicate opportunities for students to be guided and mentored by tech and science leaders, and information for parents and students on college acceptance and finances.
The Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders will take place June 28, 29 and 30.
“We already have the plane ticket and hotel booked,” Girard said.