Science beckons Sequim women

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This past summer, two Sequim students flexed their intellectual muscles in the world of aerospace engineering.

Caitlin Pallai, a Sequim High School senior, and Halli Forsman, a home-schooled Olympic Peninsula Academy student, completed an intense one-week program called Washington Aerospace Scholars at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Founded in 2007, WAS is a competitive, hands-on academic program emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math.

The two students worked for six months leading up to the program studying a NASA-designed, distance-learning curriculum on the Internet.

Lessons covered space flight, the history of the space program and plans for settling on other planets.

"It was fun but also challenging," Forsman said.

To qualify for the summer program, students must rank in the top 150 on numerous 500-word essays.

Students made final projects, too. Forsman's was on the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and can be found at

Lift off

to aerospace

The two students participated in the first of four program sessions in June.

Their main objective was working on a team planning missions to Mars. Pallai and Forsman were on the same team throughout.

Professional engineers, scientists, university students and certified educators assisted them in their planning.

They said the team dynamic helped them learn about mission management, budgets, the legal aspects of space exploration and medicine.

Forsman said teamwork and friendship were easy to come by.

"Ten minutes into the presentation, we were already working as a team."

Teams tackled challenges including design, construction and deployment of robotic rovers, model rockets, lander devices and payload lofting.

The Sequim students continue to speak to their

team online.

Between sessions, they heard lectures from field experts including Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut and CEO of the

Museum of Flight.

Students toured Boeing Commercial Airplane assembly plant and engineering laboratories at the University of Washington.

"It was amazing standing next to a triple seven engine," Forsman said.

Breaking the


Forsman said she was surprised to see so many young women interested in engineering.

During the session, more than half the group was female.

"Not too long ago, science was thought to be primarily male," she said.

"It was encouraging."

Forsman thought she wanted to pursue astrophysics but the program caused her to change her mind to studying aerospace engineering.

"I didn't think of engineering as a career before because it didn't seem interesting, but Washington Aerospace showed me a whole creative side."

Her goal is to remain involved in astrophysics in some capacity by designing a spacecraft to answer questions about the universe.

Both the students came back from the experience with more post-high school options from the good week.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life," Forsman said.

All student expenses were paid by the WAS Foundation group.

Application deadline for next summer's program is Nov. 6. Participants must be high school juniors with 3.0 minimum grade-point averages, United States citizens and Washington state residents.

For more information, visit www.museumof


Reach Matthew Nash at

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