The Women in Space Science (WISS) Award Celebration is a special event held annually and is hosted by the Adler Planetarium Women’s Board. We are in our eleventh year, and I am so proud to be involved with this program. Each year, the Women’s Board recognizes women who have made significant contributions in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Founded in 2003, WISS was first an evening program, and in the past decade it has evolved to a corporate luncheon and afternoon student program. Approximately 250 middle school aged girls from Chicago area schools attend WISS and get to hear from the honoree. This year, we are honoring Amber Gell – a rocket scientist and spacecraft systems engineer with NASA and Lockheed Martin. The program provides an inspirational afternoon for the girls and motivates them to pursue careers in STEM.
We are especially excited to have Amber as our honoree this year. She is part of the team working on the Orion Project – NASA’s vision for space exploration. The Orion Spacecraft replaces the Space Shuttle. Amber is the Docking Integrator and ensures the Orion Spacecraft will safely dock and undock to other spacecraft such as the International Space Station or a Lunar Lander. In addition to being an accomplished rocket scientist, Amber conducts microgravity research and promotes STEM careers to young adults. With her diverse range of knowledge and experience, she brings an innovative and relatable perspective to these disciplines.
In addition to engaging in an interactive discussion with Amber, the girls participate in a hands-on science activity facilitated by Adler educators and scientists and view a planetarium sky show. This programming provides a unique opportunity for the students and allows them to think about the careers related to STEM. The girls will hear about Amber’s career path and the education she received to help her in her career aspirations. Reaching out to the girls at this age is a pivotal time to empower girls and get them excited about science.
Proceeds from WISS continue to support the Adler Planetarium’s vision to inspire the next generation of explorers.
Written by Sara Rebmann, Women's Board coordinator at the Adler Planetarium.