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For this NASA aerospace engineer, problem-solving requires creativity

Sabrina Thompson, who sees the value of interdisciplinary approaches in STEM education, will host a youth workshop combining those fields with art and fashion on Feb. 25.

Sabrina Thompson (standing) and young people at a past event in Baltimore. (Courtesy Girl In Space Club)

In 2023, Sabrina Thompson’s Girl in Space Club earned recognition from the likes of Essence and National Geographic for its special flight suits for women.

The company outfitted a primarily female crew for a Mars simulation called Hypatia in Utah, as documented in an upcoming film. Later that year, it provided flight suits for a coed crew in a cave simulation mission in Portugal.

“[We’re] providing a way for women to be able to work in better conditions in a sense just by changing the fact that the [flight suits can be opened] in the back so you don’t have to pull the whole thing off to go to the bathroom,” said Thompson, a Baltimore resident who works remotely, designing orbits and trajectories for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Thompson, who considers herself an out-of-the-box thinker, hopes to make an impact closer to home by integrating art, fashion and STEM education into a new set of pop-up workshops.

“So I started a program called STEMulating Art, specifically to use art and craft as a way to engage youth in STEM,” said Thompson.

Three girls, two with masks, holding shoes in front of a counter.

The STEMulating Art Pop-Up Workshop will support young people making create customized lunar footwear. (Courtesy Girl In Space Club)

She said that the workshops, which include exercises like designing lunar footwear for astronauts to use on the moon, are a catalyst to introduce students to advanced physics concepts at a high level.

The event coming up on Sunday, Feb. 25 at the Future Makers HQ is the company’s first pop-up workshop, as it typically works directly with organizations like the YMCA and Girl Scouts. Thompson welcomes anyone interested in coming to create special shoes, called Astronaut Kicks, to reach out via email to register or if they’re interested in a scholarship. Girl In Space Club also takes donations to help Baltimore youth attend free of cost.

register here

Thompson explained that her motivation to bridge the gap between STEM education and students’ interests started when she was a teenager.

“It wasn’t until, you know, my art teacher, ironically, in the 12th grade, she’s like, ‘Oh, you’re good at math. You’re good at science, and you’re trying to figure out what you want to do for college. You know, you’re creative. How about engineering?’” said Thompson, who believes that through real-world applicability of STEM concepts, students (and particularly minorities) can better understand and appreciate the subject matter.

Looking ahead, Thompson hopes to be a version of that 12th-grade teacher by continuing to make space exploration accessible and appealing. She looks forward to further developing more luxury and fashionable versions of the flight suit, and positioning herself and her company in Baltimore’s youth innovation pipeline.

“I think about problems and solutions. [Solutions] require a level of creativity,” she said, “require interdisciplinary skills that are beyond using calculations to solve problems.”

Companies: NASA
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