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NASA Astronaut Encourages Women to Shoot for the Stars

NASA Astronaut Encourages Women to Shoot for the Stars

By Sarah Harmon, The Intelligencer/Wheeling News Register

More than 100 women from all sectors of the technology field gathered at Oglebay Resort and Conference center Thursday afternoon to be inspired by a woman who has followed her dreams all the way to space.

Astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger spoke at Tech Connect West Virginia’s first “Women In Technology” Conference about her journey with NASA, her 15-day trip to space to the International Space Station in 2010, and the role of NASA technology in our everyday world. The audience also heard from West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant, who highlighted the technological advancements her office has utilized .

During her speech, Metcalf-Lindenburger discussed how far women have come in terms of careers.

Photos by Sarah Harmon
Astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger speaks during the first Women in Technology Conference of TechConnect West Virginia on Thursday afternoon at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center.

“My mom, when she was studying math, was the only woman in her department and was definitely discouraged from doing some things and applying for some jobs. Watching my mom and how she dealt with that but still stayed very optimistic encouraged me to keep going with the math and science field,” Metcalf-Lindenburger said. “When I was in my geology department there were no female professors, but professors were really great at bringing in other mentors and talking with us and there are other professors I look to. I think as a female, taking things from my male professors and then also asking questions from other female professors in other departments inspired me to go out and advocate for myself and see what I wanted to be and make that happen.”

Metcalf-Lindenburger said she was hired into NASA in 2004 after a five-year career as a high school earth science teacher. She described how technology has evolved in her eight years at NASA and related her experiences in the 2010 shuttle mission to resupply the International Space Station with 6 tons of equipment. She also mentioned that her 2010 crew set a record for the most women in space at one time with four women on the mission.

She said many forms of technology used on the International Space Station, such as robotic work stations, highly advanced cameras and water filtration systems, can be applied to the population’s needs on Earth.

Metcalf-Lindenburger also drew on her own experience as a former high school teacher to emphasize the importance of incorporating technology into education and ensuring that youth are introduced to the growing field.

“We have a lot more capabilities to provide our youngsters information about what we’re doing (in technology) and engaging them,” Metcalf-Lindenburger said. “My mother was a math teacher and my father taught science. … I think it’s important for us as mentors to provide cutting-edge technology in our education process.”

Anne Barth, executive director TechConnect WV, called the keynote speaker and “American hero.”

“She is a hero to girls and young women across this nation, especially those who gaze at the stars and dream of one day exploring new frontiers in space,” Barth said. “She’s a hero to women and men of any age in any country on this planet who value education for girls and women.”

Tennant also spoke during the conference about ways technology has been incorporated in her office. She said technology gives business owners the ability to file important paperwork online and use online chat if a business has a question to have it answered instantly.

“We have used technology to advance the office better and faster than anyone else when it comes to streamlining, especially businesses that are using our online sources,” Tennant said. “I think that we are leading the way across the country and it just shows what you can do with technology, and to have women be the focus with technology pushes us forward even more. It’s conferences like this and it’s women like this that are going to move West Virginia forward.”

The two-day Women in Technology Conference was designed to encourage and support women involved in all aspects of technology, including science and engineering education and research, the private sector, business development, governmental agencies and entrepreneurship.