“STARBASE gave me confidence to keep pursuing my passion and helped me realize my dream job as an astroinformatics scientist.” Ruhi Doshi recollects a pivotal moment in her STEM journey- attending STARBASE Minnesota’s Next Generation summer program. Today Ruhi is even closer to achieving her dream job. She studies data science at the University of California, Berkeley where she contributes to dark energy research, participates in the statistics association, and even helps teach a data science course.
Growing up Ruhi had a passion for science and math, but often felt frustrated being the only girl in the room at most STEM camps. On the first day of a robotics camp, Ruhi walked into a room full of boys who made decisions without her and told her to sit and watch. “I almost ran out crying,” Ruhi recalls. “I remember feeling so frustrated. Just because I may not have had the exposure beforehand didn’t mean I wasn’t capable. It just sucked the fun out of all these supposedly fun summer camps.” Ruhi was ready to give up on math and science, but then, she explains, “When STARBASE happened the first thing I could do was make friends with other girls. It was so refreshing to be able to do that. And that I wasn’t the only person who had these experiences was really empowering to me.”
At STARBASE Ruhi used a 3D printer for the first time and solved problems like an engineer. Working with her teammates, Ruhi tested the strength of shapes to solve a design challenge of building a bridge capable of holding significant weight. After completing the challenge, Ruhi learned that engineers use trusses to build strong structures in real life. “I was just mind blown. That’s the kind of problem solving that is really appealing to me about STEM, about creating new solutions…I’m never going to forget that.” Ruhi learned Pro/Engineer, a computer-aided design modeling software, to design and 3D print rocket fins. “It was just absolutely fascinating,” Ruhi remembers, “to see all of the different shapes my friends and I designed.”
The positive week at STARBASE not only revived Ruhi’s self-efficacy and interest in STEM, but propelled her into advanced learning experiences. The very next year Ruhi’s Engineering Technology and Design teacher offered her more complex projects because of her experience using Pro/Engineer while at STARBASE. Ruhi pursued STEM outside of the classroom by joining Science Olympiad, where she found a community of like-minded STEM enthusiasts. Over the years her role has transitioned from avid participant to leader and mentor, “Now I help write textbooks and test questions, and help proctor the tournament. It’s definitely one of the communities that I really enjoy being a part of.”
While in high school. Ruhi had the chance to conduct research alongside professors at the University of Minnesota, an experience that led her to declare a data science major at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to taking classes like Data Inference and Decisions Statistics, Ruhi contributes to STEM research as an intern with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) Survey. As a member of the software team at DESI, Ruhi works on creating a data quality monitoring application that astronomers use to make sure incoming data is of good quality. Ruhi and her undergraduate teammates had the opportunity to present at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Hawaii earlier this year.
When asked what skills she uses most often, Ruhi responds with conviction, “Perseverance is so key. When you see a problem you don’t know how to do, you just try from a different angle or come back after a little while. That’s the whole point, you don’t stop working on a problem if you get stuck.” She goes on to say that teamwork is another key skill, “Science, engineering, and any kind of STEM work, is not done individually. It’s all collaborative. You don’t solve problems on your own, and if you get stuck you go and talk to your teammates and you find out what they would do instead. Find out how to grow and learn those methods yourself so you can help other people too.”
We asked Ruhi to share words of advice with current STARBASE students. She recommends, “Stay involved and keep trying new experiences.” She advocates for students to communicate and support fellow classmates. “STARBASE is a great launching point, being able to talk to other students and not feel shy about asking them what their rocket design looks like, how it’s different from yours, and what shape they think is best to support a bridge. Those are the ways you grow, learn, and keep staying interested in STEM.”
Many thanks to Ruhi for taking the time to reconnect with STARBASE! We enjoyed catching up and hearing about her fantastic STEM experiences. We wish her the best as she continues STEM research, STEM mentoring and teaching, and pursues a career in data analytics!
STARBASE Minnesota Alum Maya “Nova” Steen attended STARBASE’s 2011 and 2012 Next Generation summer programs through a STARBASE partnership with Microsoft and other local STEM corporations. Maya recalls a positive and validating STEM learning environment where students worked to take on real world problems. “STARBASE really helped me gain confidence and not be afraid of big questions, tough challenges, and finding creative solutions to problems. All the adults, the teachers and staff, took the kids seriously. I felt like I was a real scientist for the first time.”
Currently, Maya is working toward a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and physics at Boston University. We asked Maya what skills she learned at STARBASE that she still uses in her studies today. She recollects working in teams to find solutions for human survival in the harsh environment of Mars. “We had a big plan that we would make a greenhouse and all these other colony buildings. It was cool to work in small teams, solve problems, and develop our ideas as a group.” Today, Maya uses teamwork in astronomy labs and in her physics study groups. “Being able to work in teams is a key skill to develop as early as you can. Teamwork is one of the most important skills you need in any career path.”
Since she was a young astrophile stargazing with her grandpa in southern Minnesota, Maya has developed skills in technology to learn more about celestial objects, space, and the physical universe. At STARBASE, Maya was introduced to how CAD and 3D printing can help solve STEM challenges. “I remember how new the technology was to me and how cool that was. It felt very exciting and current. Using CAD was the first time I had ever done that kind of learning with computers.” Maya now uses computer programs and telescopes to track Saturn and Betelgeuse in nighttime astronomy labs. “We program the desktop computer in the next room over from the ten-inch telescope. One person focuses the telescope while someone else programs the computer. We usually work in groups of 10 when we’re in the observatory and this is a really fun group.” Maya reports that using the telescopes is one of her favorite parts of college because she enjoys collaborative teamwork and hands-on use of technology.
Today, Maya uses perseverance to work through challenging astronomy and physics concepts, a mindset she developed early on when learning STEM concepts and the engineering design process at STARBASE. “Being able to tackle big questions and find creative solutions is a big deal and we did that a lot at STARBASE.” We asked Maya what words of advice she has for current STARBASE students who are passionate about STEM. She shared, “If you’re interested in it, go for it. Don’t be afraid of it being hard or overwhelming. I’ve found that I’ve learned the most from the hardest classes and the hardest experiences. Don’t back down from the challenges, because you can do it if you persevere and use your skills.”
Maya will graduate from Boston University in 2023. We wish her the best as she continues her studies and look forward to hearing about her future career! Thank you, Maya, for sharing your story with us.
STARBASE Minnesota alum Angela Lenling attended STARBASE in 2013 with Battle Creek Elementary School, St. Paul Public Schools. She always had enjoyed STEM and space and after attending STARBASE recalls, “I came back and thought, I want to do that every day to learn even more. It was really exciting to go to STARBASE for the whole week. That was the best field trip I’ve ever been on because I learned completely new things every day and it was super exciting!”
Currently, Angela is finishing up her senior year in
School District 622 and will join the 208th Weather Flight upon graduation. Weather Flight is a globally separated unit that supports the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard’s pilots and their missions. Angela chose to join the military because of the opportunity to further her STEM knowledge. She was also encouraged by her family’s extensive history of military service.
Angela is excited to begin military and scientific training, which will include boot camp, meteorological training, and hands-on practice with meteorological tools used in Weather Flight operations. After training, Angela will join her fellow service members in the day-to-day operations at 208th Weather Flight. She will provide commanders and pilots with mission execution forecasts, flight weather briefs, long-range forecasts, climatology reports, trafficability forecasts, and all other meteorological requests. Weather Flight can also deploy combat weather teams within 72 hours of notice, something that Angela will most certainly be a part of in the future.
Angela “Sparkly Unicorn” has many memories of STARBASE. She remembers CAD and 3D printing, studying the density of the air by experimenting with hands-on models, and using teamwork and perseverance skills to solve STEM challenges. When asked to name one skill learned at STARBASE she still uses today, Angela reports, “Teamwork was a really important part of learning at STARBASE. Even if something is difficult and might not have an obvious answer, there is always a different way to approach it. We did that a lot at STARBASE. Getting other people’s views and perspectives on a problem is helpful.”
STARBASE motivated Angela to pursue math activities outside of her multivariable calculus class. “I was a member of the math team, which is a team of about twenty people in all grades in high school. We competed with different schools.” Angela viewed each competition as a learning experience. “It was more of a fun challenge instead of being super serious. I liked being with other people on the team and trying to figure out the answers to our problems. It was really fun to see how other people work through issues and problems. I wasn’t disappointed when I didn’t score too well because it was more fun to think about what I know and how can I improve.”
When asked to share advice with current STARBASE students, Angela advises to lean into challenging experiences and to welcome unexpected opportunities. “You’re not always going to be on the path that you want to be. Just keep finding ways to include STEM in your life.” Angela shared that the STEM field is fulfilling because there is always something new to learn. “A STEM career is most interesting because every day is different and always changing. Keep working hard and being interested in things that are challenging. It will help you in more ways than one.”
Thank you, Angela, for your future military service. We appreciate your positive attitude and inspiring story! We wish you all the best as you continue your STEM education and career.
Name: Airman First Class, A1C, Emily Berg
Call Sign: “Torque”
Year at STARBASE: 2009
Interviewed by: Santi Bromley, STARBASE Instructor & Military Volunteer Engagement
Date: December 12, 2017
Santi: Tell me a little about what you have done since you participated in STARBASE in 2009. Read More
A1C Berg: During my senior year of high school, I enlisted in the Air National Guard as an airplane mechanic, graduated high school with honors, and left for basic training and technical school. I was awarded a Commander’s Coin for my high grade point average in my military training, and since then (February 2017) I have gone on multiple TDYs, and have started to further my education at Winona State University with a major in Nursing.
Santi: How did you decide on your nursing major?
A1C Berg: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have a career where I could help people. Going to STARBASE really expanded my perspective that there are many ways to do that, and helped me discover my passion for science. Ultimately, I decided that going into a healthcare field was the right fit for me.
Santi: Tell me what you remember about STARBASE.
A1C Berg: I remember showing up to STARBASE on my first day and being very nervous. But soon after we got started I met one of my fellow students named Elastagirl. She and I got along like two peas in a pod. I had so much fun at STARBASE. After making my rocket, I felt so much more confident and knew I wanted to go back the next year, but unfortunately I was too old.
Santi: In the time shortly after completing the STARBASE program, were you motivated to do any further STEM activities?
A1C Berg: After STARBASE I decided that I wanted to start competing in science fairs. I did projects on metal corrosion, buoyancy, psychology, and many other topics.
Santi: Can you identify anything you learned at STARBASE that you still use today?
A1C Berg: The biggest concepts that I learned at STARBASE were critical thinking and problem solving. These concepts are very important in my career and in everyday life.
Santi: What are your plans after you complete your nursing program?
A1C Berg: I would like to go into either psychiatric nursing or aeromedical evacuation after college. Staying involved in the military is very important to me and I would like to continue to be a part of such a great organization.
Santi: How did you end up choosing to go into the military?
A1C Berg: STARBASE showed me that just because you have never done something before, doesn’t mean you can’t. It boosted my confidence and without that confidence I don’t think that I would have been able to progress to where I am now and be able to make the decision to enlist.
Santi: What is the work you do on Maintenance on the flight line at the 133rd?
A1C Berg: I do a wide variety of tasks on the flight line. I do anything from refueling and servicing different systems on planes, to changing tires and other important parts to inspecting and preparing the planes for the aircrews that get to fly them.
Santi: How has being in the military impacted your life?
A1C Berg: Being in the military has impacted my life a ton. It is the best decision I have ever made. It has let me travel to places I didn’t think I would ever go, taught me not only about planes, but about other people and myself, and given me a supportive community that is always willing to give me a hand when I need it.
Santi: Do you have any advice for current STARBASE students as they complete the program and look to their futures?
A1C Berg: Be creative! Don’t just try to do what everyone else is doing – think outside the box.
We are thrilled by the inspiration that A1C Emily “Torque” Berg found from her experience at STARBASE Minnesota as a student attending in 2009 and we hope that the students who go through the STARBASE program are as equally inspired in their approach to education, training and life. Thank you, A1C Emily for your service to our country, and for being such an outstanding role model to the thousands of students who participate in our STARBASE now and in the years to come.
Michael Efejuku attended STARBASE with Risen Christ Catholic School as a 4th grader in 2006 and 6th grader in 2008. He has fond memories of building and launching rockets, viewing airplanes, and using the 3D printer. He remembers leaving STARBASE amazed by science and all of its applications. Michael later attended DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, graduating in 2014. While at DeLaSalle, he continued to build off of his experience at STARBASE, by joining the school’s science club. Read More
Michael is now a student at the University of Saint Thomas studying Mechanical Engineering where he is active in research related to bubble size in sprays. He is also on the school’s Board for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and a member of St. Thomas’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC). In the future, Michael looks forward to joining the Air Force after college and would like to work in the biomedical field with technologies such as prosthetics.
When asked what advice he has for current STARBASE students as they complete the program and look to their futures, he says “It is a valuable program to be in, the hands-on component is important, embrace it and don’t be afraid to fail.” This is certainly sage advice for the over 3,500 students who come through STARBASE each academic year.
“In 8th grade I attended Washington Technology Middle School. I signed up for an elective class in engineering and city planning. As the only girl in the class, I was shy and afraid because I viewed my intelligence as something not “up-to-par” with boys. I remember the encouragement that girls can solve “big-world” problems just as equally as boys can. During this time, I was also an English language learner. There was tremendous stress and pressure for me academically, socially, and culturally. Trying to learn English and excel in my engineering class took a lot of effort. I wasn’t talented in it naturally like my peers, but I knew that if I worked hard to learn, I could excel in it. Looking back, I felt that STARBASE helped prepare in me, a heart for learning.” Read More
“Stemming from my exposure to STARBASE and my middle school class, I pursued Urban Studies as my major during my undergrad because I wanted to learn more about the urbanization in America and its systems. When I graduated, I was given the opportunity to work at CAPI USA, first as an AmeriCorps Employment Navigator. Then I moved to a case aide position and finally moved on to becoming an employment counselor. I am now working with a state program called the “Minnesota Family Investment Program”, which is an adaptation of the federal “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” program, also known as TANF. This program is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. What I do and what these programs do are so much more than just words on a piece of paper. At CAPI, I specifically work with refugee and immigrant families. Through my experience working there I got to see how policy-making and economics played a huge role in my community and in people’s lives.”
“Today, I am pursuing education as a graduate student at the University of St. Thomas in their Collaborative Urban Educator program (CUE) to become an English language teacher. During the fall of 2015, I returned to STARBASE as a pre-service teacher. I was so excited to visit the very place that started it all. Through my experiences there, I now have a different view looking at STARBASE from when I was a student. As a student I just wanted to have fun and learn. Now, with the eyes of an educator and community leader, I want to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a program– I want to solve problems and identify them. And from that, I am able to learn and improve my ways too.”
The second recipient of the Brigadier General Tim Cossalter STARBASE Minnesota Scholarship is Annie Francis. Annie attended STARBASE with St. Bernard’s Elementary School as a 4th grader in 2006 and a 6th grader in 2008.
At the time that Annie attended STARBASE, she found that school was challenging. She had to work harder than most students because of a learning disability. “STARBASE was an amazing opportunity for me. I have a learning disability that makes it very difficult to read and write. The hands-on learning that happened at STARBASE made learning exciting and fun. I could understand what I was doing because I was actually doing it!”. Read More
After graduating from East Ridge in 2014, Annie attended Winona State University where she majored in Business, but later transferred to the University of Minnesota to study Early Childhood Education, a path that will allow her share what she has learned about perseverance in learning and education. In the future Annie hopes to teach kindergarten in an urban environment.
When asked what advice she has for current STARBASE students, Annie says “Enjoy the experience and look for similar programs, so that you can continue to learn.” These are truly wise words from someone who embodies dedication and perseverance in learning.