By Mataeo Smith
The cancellation of the SUNY Plattsburgh Shine On! Program’s 2020 conference featuring a NASA astronaut inspired the editorial board to “go big” for 2021. Following a 30-page proposal to NASA containing 18 letters of support from politicians, local meteorologists and SUNY Plattsburgh professors, Shine On! was approved to host a downlink with the NASA international space station during mission 65 as a part of its virtual 2021 conference: “Look To The Stars”
Shine on! decided to name science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs the theme of its conference last year with an impetus to address the gender gap within the STEM field. Given the unexpected commencement of the pandemic, Shine On! decided to continue its mission pertaining to STEM for the 2021 conference with the inclusion of a young male audience.
Keeping the theme was important for Shine On! Chairwoman Chrysa Rabideau because it speaks to the organization’s mission of teaching young women how to pursue their dreams and become successful. The organization received exuberant support from the community with letters of support coming from local figures like SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi, New York Representative Elise Stefanik and WPTZ Meteorologist Gib Brown.
The conference date is currently undecided given the unpredictability of NASA’s schedule. Participants would be able to communicate with NASA only when the astronauts’ time available. The estimated date is set between March and April of this year. Planning the conference without an official date proved to be difficult according to Rabideau. However, she said with the confirmation from NASA tightly woven under her belt, it’s easier to step back and have a sigh of relief because the worst part is over.
The STEM field pertains directly to the values of Shine ON! interest to inspire young minds surpass the bare minimum in life.
“STEM takes character,” Rabideau said. “It takes problem solving and that’s one of our core values. We wanted the North Country to learn more about STEM and we wanted to do that by showing them what kind of character it takes to be part of the STEM industry.”
“Look To the Stars” will include workshops like “Beam Me Up Scotty,” a look into the technology behind NASA’s space suits facilitated by Pearl Physical Therapy Owner Elizabeth Pearl and “Communication and the Weather,” with NBC-affiliated television station WPTZ meteorologist Caitlin Napoleoni—one of the 18 people to write a letter of support to the Shine On! proposal.
“There’s a ton of super smart people working up there,” Shine On! Committee member Emily Slattery said. “That’s what we want to showcase. We want to show that it’s not easy to get people in Space, but you can use character strengths and apply them to a stem career.”