BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — After months of preparation, four all-girl teams blasted off their rockets at Edwards Air Force Base in competition for the American Rocketry Challenge.
Nearly 5,000 students nationwide compete each year, and the girls representing the Kern-Edwards region have been perfecting their rockets since last summer.
The students come from the Mojave Unified School District and Southern Kern Unified School District. They were selected for a program called Mighty in STEM Sisters, or MiSS, which teaches middle and high school girls about aerospace.
Director Arima Flores says the purpose is to inspire more women, especially underrepresented women, to pursue careers in STEM.
They came in not knowing what STEM is. You take a fresh group of girls, you give them the exposure, you give them the resources and you see what they amount to," Flores said.
Seventh-grader Valeria Acosta and her team Star-X say working on projects under MiSS has given them experiences not found in the classroom.
"We don't get this often, especially at school. Girls don't get recognized that much, so I mean, here we are," Acosta said.
Valerie Kettering is an on-base electronics engineer who has mentored the girls since September 2021. She says she couldn't be more proud.
It's so great to be able to give back to them the way that mentors gave back to me when I was studying in school. I think it's one of those beautiful, full-circle moments," Kettering said.
With Kern County being an industry leader in engineering, Flores says she has high hopes for these girls, and that maybe one day, they might work at Edwards.
Flores launched the umbrella program STARBASE Edwards in 2019 and through the nonprofit, created Mighty in STEM Sisters. The program is federally-funded and provides 25-hours of stem engagement to the Antelope Valley, Kern County and Los Angeles areas.
One of the projects they're participating in is the American Rocketry Challenge. The teams load a rocket with eggs, and the competition is based on height and the number of eggs broken during launch and landing. Qualifiers will compete in the national championship in Washington, D.C.
But, Flores says it's more than that.
"It's not about the competition, it's about the unified effort that we have created," she said. "We do a lot of activities that are not in the norm of a classroom. When they come to STARBASE, they have lots of mission and challenges that they get to complete."