Women Fly into the Museum of Flight for STEM event

On 22 and 23 Nov. 2018, the annual Women Fly event hosted by the Museum of Flight is looking to inspire youth once again by presenting various STEM-focused activities and hosting Colonel Rebecca J. Sonkiss, the keynote speaker.

The Museum’s Director of Digital Learning, Melissa Edwards, has overseen the event for the past few years and believes it gives young women in the Tukwila and surrounding community an opportunity to expand their horizons in the aerospace industry.

“This event allows young women to understand that there are a wide variety of careers in STEM fields, to meet women who are working in these fields, and to be comfortable asking questions that are gender-specific,” said Edwards.

Generally, the schedule of the event is 1. Keynote speaker, 2. Workshop A, 3. Lunch or College Fair, 4. Lunch or College Fair, and 5. Workshop B. Previously, they have hosted a large 360° dome that shows the night sky inside, a problem-solving game in which the girls must act like flight attendants and fill the food carts to account for weight, and an intensive College Fair with representatives from Washington State University, the University of Washington, and the Air Force Academy.

“The topics this year include computer coding at Alaska [Airlines], career planning and fighting imposter syndrome, and Solar System explorations!” said Edwards. “We also have a great selection of companies/colleges participating in our resource fair (including Boeing and Alaska Airlines) and I think that this will be a great opportunity for the girls to ask questions about what it is like to work for these organizations!”

Last year, RAHS sophomore Mollie Brombaugh took the opportunity to go to Women Fly, and appreciated learning from a variety of different industry personnel.

“I really liked having the opportunity to choose what you want to learn about,” said Brombaugh. “Each class, led by a professional, is very interesting yet succinct. The diversity of classes is also great, you can look into anything that interests you.”

Similar to projects at RAHS, the activities presented at the event are engaging and unique, featuring Boeing employees and focused on STEM careers.

“I really find that the hands-on workshops, which give you an opportunity to do something, are the best,” said Brombaugh. “Hands-on activities relevant to space are what I try to aim for every year.”

This year’s orator is Colonel Rebecca J. Sonkiss, a commander who graduated from the Air Force. As such, she will undoubtedly provide much inspiration for participating girls interested in aerospace.

“I think that she will bring a very unique perspective as female military commander and be able to speak not only about her career pathway, but what inspired her as a young woman to pursue it,” said Edwards. “As with all of our Women Fly speakers and workshop leaders, I know that she is excited to have the opportunity to share her knowledge and insights with the next generation.”

Because the event is focused on women, it makes sense to have a female speaker to represent the girls attending.

“We usually brainstorm a list of possible candidates with backgrounds that we feel will be inspirational and then reach out to see if they are available,” said Edwards. “Colonel Sonkiss was actually proposed by a woman who has been a previous adult participant in Women Fly and she made it possible for us to put the request in to Col. Sonkiss.”

While the numerous activities and features might sway some into the STEM fields, Brombaugh was already resolute in what she wants for her future.

“Personally, nothing at Women Fly influenced my career decisions, as I already plan on working in the space field when I enter the workforce,” said Brombaugh. “However, Women Fly does give ideas as to specific areas of aviation fields that may be interesting.”

Looking forward to attending this year’s event and seeing who is this year’s speaker, Brombaugh appreciates the level to which companies and the Museum will rise to inspire the attendees into the aviation and aerospace fields.

“Women Fly is really fun,” said Brombaugh, “and I’m glad that there are fun resources like this to promote women in STEM and aviation.”

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