NASA Engineer Looking Foward To Speaking At Limestone's WITS Conferences
The art world’s loss was the space program’s gain when Carly Meginnis decided in middle school that she wanted to be an engineer.
Meginnis is a 30-year-old Philadelphia native who is now a Technology Development Engineer for the Crew and Thermal Systems Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston where she specializes in the development of advanced technology for space suit design.
She will be the guest speaker during lunch each day when Limestone College hosts back-to-back Women In Technology & Sciences (WITS) Conferences on Thursday, March 16, and Friday, March 17.
“When I was very young, I wanted to be an art teacher,” Meginnis said recently from her office at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “By the time I got to middle school, I knew I wanted to be an engineer and that I would like to work in space exploration. My dream came true, and it can also come true for other young women who have an interest in the STEM academic disciplines.”
STEM is an educational program developed to prepare primary and secondary students for college and graduate study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In addition to subject-specific learning, STEM aims to foster inquiring minds, logical reasoning, and collaboration skills. Limestone’s WITS Conferences are aimed at high school girls interested in the STEM-related fields of study.
“I am looking forward to being at Limestone and speaking to those female students,” Meginnis said. “I will tell them a little bit about me and how I got to where I am today. I will also provide some education about NASA’s space suits, and describe my job in advance technology. Our team regularly does educational and public outreach about our work and it’s something I very much enjoy.”
Although she has visited the state, the WITS Conferences at Limestone will be Meginnis’ first outreach appearance for NASA in South Carolina.
An authentic NASA space suit from the Johnson Space Center will be on display on March 16 and March 17 in Stephenson Dining Hall. The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) – like the one that will be exhibited at Limestone – is currently the only space suit design the United States uses as part of NASA’s work at the International Space Station. WITS Conference participants will be able to touch and photograph the space suit and its accessories.
As part of her responsibilities, Meginnis has tested space suits in NASA’s reduced-gravity aircraft to simulate weightlessness in outer space. Officially known as “Weightless Wonders,” the aircraft is often called the “Vomit Comet” because about one in three first-time fliers get airsick on the plane as it does roller-coaster-like maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico. Meginnis noted that, fortunately for her, she did not get airsick during her reduced gravity flights.
“That was one of the items I was able to check off my bucket list, and I loved it,” Meginnis explained. “During each flight, you get about 30 seconds of weightlessness. It is an amazing feeling. One of the other items on my bucket list is to experience spacewalking training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory – known as the NBL – near the Johnson Space Center. This is a large 40-foot deep pool where test subjects wear space suits to practice space walking operations in a neutrally buoyant environment to simulate the microgravity environment that astronauts experience during spaceflight. I am hopeful that I will be able to test our space suits there in the future.”
Nearly 200 sophomore and junior girls from area high schools are expected to attend the WITS conferences at Limestone. Participants will be mentored by Limestone's female faculty and students through a series of training workshops. The conferences are being organized by WITS Program Director Dr. Michelle Phillips-Meek, who is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Limestone.
Registration will begin each day at 8:15 a.m. at Fullerton Auditorium, and Dr. Phillips-Meek will welcome participants at 9 a.m. Various workshops will take place across campus throughout each morning, followed by lunch in the Stephenson Dining Hall Banquet Room.
Participants of the WITS Conference are eligible for Limestone's McMillan Scholarship Program which is designed specifically for young women who have a high school grade point average of 3.0 or better. The scholarships are worth $8,000 annually for a total of $32,000.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the STEM-related job field is projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018, compared to nine percent in other fields. Employers, however, struggle to find qualified female candidates with degrees in STEM disciplines. In fact, a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce stated that women will fill fewer than 25 percent of STEM jobs.
For more information about the WITS Conferences or the McMillan Scholarship Program, please contact the Limestone College Admissions Office at (864) 488-4615.