I had the opportunity to attend the USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. this past weekend with my project team, Cornell Mars Rover. It was an honor for us to have been invited by the Mars Society and the National Academy of Sciences to be exhibitors at the convention.
Throughout the weekend, we drove the rover around the convention center, stood at our exhibitor booth, and delivered presentations discussing the work we do with Cornell Mars Rover, the University Rover Challenge, and the Mars Society. As all of this happened, it was thrilling to see people’s reactions.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people point in my general direction with faces full of smiles and symptoms of a blown mind. As we roved around the convention, we were inspiring young minds to appreciate and potentially follow career paths in STEM. We could tell we were making a difference in their lives just by the sheer excitement and curiosity they expressed. Even with adults, the conversations we had were enlightening and their impressions helped raise our own ambitious standards. It was incredible!
Probably the biggest take-away for me from attending the USA Science and Engineering Festival was gaining a reassuring perspective at such a crucial time. I’ve always loved the STEM fields, but I knew walking into college meant that my passion would be tested. Sure enough, this test has not been graceful – it’s been full of doubt, frustration, and vulnerability. Especially with finals approaching and having just finished several exams, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the academic challenges of a technical education.
But, after taking a step back from the coursework and immersing myself in the greater ecosystem of STEM in the real world, I realized first-hand its true demand and purpose. So what if the workload is rigorous and difficult? None of that has stopped my appetite or appreciation for what I still believe to be the coolest work I could ever be doing. In fact, despite these challenges, when asked to inspire others at the Science and Engineering Festival, I also felt myself getting inspired in the process. That’s the sign of a healthy passion cycle.