Jocelyn Dunn is well on her way to becoming an astronaut, a dream she’s had since she was a young girl. At age 28, the Purdue University industrial engineering doctoral student has accomplished some impressive feats, earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and living eight months in a simulated Martian habitat.
In 2014, Dunn and a team of five other researchers lived in abandoned quarry about 8,000 feet above sea level in a domed structure on a volcano slope on the Big Island of Hawaii. The team was part of a NASA-funded study of human factors that affect team performance during long-term space travel, like a mission to Mars.
“We as a team went out and explored the area in full space suits as if we were the first Mars explorers,” Dunn said. “We would get tasks assigned to us from our Mission Control and explore the terrain. This was the most astronaut-like thing that we did and the most enjoyable part for me was putting on the suit and feeling all of the physical and mental challenges of exploring.”
Nearly 1,200 girls with aspirations mirroring Dunn’s when she was young can talk with female science and technology leaders and participate in hands-on, interactive activities March 5 at the third annual Passport to Hi-Tech, a partnership between Conner Prairie and Women & Hi Tech.
Passport to Hi-Tech is an event for girls ages 7 to 12 to learn about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside Conner Prairie’s Welcome Center, located at 13400 Allisonville Road in Fishers, Ind. Free for museum members, general admission is $8. Admission for area Girl Scouts in uniform and their family members is $6.
Girls can participate in hands-on experiments and interactive exhibits throughout the day and explore biology, chemistry, engineering, manufacturing, computer science and other disciplines.
At 30 stations located throughout the museum’s Welcome Center, girls can engage with female experts and professionals working in STEM-related fields and ask questions, help with hands-on experiments, participate in interactive tasks and learn more about careers. Girls will have their passports stamped after visiting each station, helping them decide what fields they found most interesting.
In addition to Dunn, several other female STEM leaders and achievers will be present at Passport to Hi-Tech, including Mikaela Gilbert, a student at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University who as a high school senior launched a business called Chatter Eggs, and Lisa Laughner, founder, president and CEO of Go Electric, a green-tech startup developing energy services solutions that accelerate a renewable energy future.
Passport to Hi-Tech is sponsored by Roche and supported by technology hosts Dow AgroScience, Cummins, Garrity Tool, Rolls Royce, CIM System Robotics, Eleven Fifty Academy, Lilly, CE Solutions, Go Electric and Angie’s List. Education hosts include Indiana University, Purdue University, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indiana State University, Butler University, Ivy Tech, Marian University, Anderson University and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Program hosts include Girl Scouts of central Indiana, Engineering for Kids, STEM Scouts, INFirst Robotics, 1st Maker Space, Video Game Palooza, Microsoft Store, Starbase Indiana and Link Observatory.