The next generation of leaders and innovators in STEAM will help to change the world. And, while with age often comes wisdom, The Mars Generation, through our annual 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Awards , will honor some of the brightest students and young people who are positioned to shape our future for the better.
We were impressed by the sheer volume of nominations for our first year of 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators award. Young people with backgrounds and resumes from artists to scientists, and entrepreneurs to engineers were featured in the submissions. With so many talented students from around the world nominated, our judges were challenged to narrow the list to just 24. The 24 Under 24 will certainly inspire their young peers and encourage students in their communities to reach for their own ‘Mars.’
A huge thank you to our sponsors – Aerojet Rocketdyne and United Launch Alliance (ULA) – for their support in presenting the 2018 awards. The Mars Generation is fortunate to have two leaders in the industry play an important role in honoring these young innovators.
Below, you will find the names and brief bios of those receiving the 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Award. We look forward to their continued hard work to Dream Big! Act Big! And Inspire Others!
2018 #24Under24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Awards:
1. Canda Atalay, Age 17, Turkey
Public Outreach & Founder of Toku Space Micronation
In her spare time, Atalay works on a competitive Martian rover design team, and as she launches into adulthood, her goal is to study aerospace engineering and found a space agency in Turkey. And that’s just in her spare time! At 18, Atalay is already accomplished: she’s is the founder of a unique social media platform in Turkey called Toku Space Micronation, where students are invited to share memes and stories about STEAM and space. Her leadership shows also in her in public outreach, including speaking for school groups and volunteering at TEDx Talks. Atalay has spent a significant amount of her young life studying CubeSats, a possible solution to space debris and orbital crowding concerns. It will be exciting to see where Atalay’s science public outreach takes her.
Affiliations: FIRST Lego League, New Horizons in Entrepreneurship in STEAM, Istanbul Technical University & The Mars Society
Field(s) of Interest: Engineering, Space & Entrepreneurship
2. Deepak Atyam, Age 24, United States
Co-Founder and CEO of Tri-D Dynamics
Through a startup company he co-founded called Tri-D Dynamics, Atyam works to produce low-cost liquid rocket engines. He’s had internships at multiple NASA centers, Moon Express’ Google Lunar X-prize team and SpaceX. In his undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego, he researched the feasibility of using 3D printing to innovate a new type class of NanoSat launcher rocket engines, and he founded a Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Chapter. At only 24, Atyam has already been recognized in multiple publications for his engineering, entrepreneurship and scholarship. He currently has six 5 patents pending with 1 patent granted.
Affiliations: UCSD Moxie Center for Entrepreneurship, Gordon Engineering Leadership Center, NASA, Moon Express, SpaceX, FIRST Lego League, University of California, at San Diego & Purdue University, Purdue Foundry
Field(s) of Interest: Technology, Engineering & Entrepreneurship, 3D Printing
3. Rebecca Baron, Age 17, Canada
Activist, Scientist & Founder of Because of Her
Not many 17-year-olds can say they’ve crowdfunded more than $1 million to help promote literacy and girls’ education in developing countries. But Baron can, and that’s just one of her accomplishments so far in her young life. Baron delivers a popular TEDx Talk called “Conquering the Gender Gap in STEM,” and she has founded Because of Her, a nonprofit organization building a community to encourage and inspire female students to pursue STEAM-related fields. Baron’s an accomplished research scientist herself–you can find her part of a team at the University of British Columbia’s Life Sciences Institute. Before she’s reached adulthood, Baron has already been awarded a gold medal for her microbiome research focused on solutions to improve indoor air quality and toxin reductions.
Affiliations: Kitsilano Community Centre, Room to Read, Prince of Wales Mini School, University of British Columbia, & TEDx
Field(s) of Interest: Science, Global Activism & Gender Equality
4. Darren Charrier, Age 21, United States
Inventor, Engineer & Founder of Voyager Space Technologies, Inc.
Charrier, 21, is building robotic spacecraft that will extend the life of satellites on-orbit through Voyager Space Technologies Inc., the company he founded. Before this most recent venture, Canadian entrepreneur Charrier served as president of his Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) Chapter, growing a team of 20 students to more than 100. His SEDS Chapter secured NASA grant money to develop an open-source rocket engine test stand, and Charrier helped lead his Chapter to launch the Vulcan-1, the first collegiate rocket using liquid fuel from a 3D-printed engine. An inventor and brilliant engineer, this won’t be the last you’ll hear from Charrier.
Affiliations: University of California at San Diego, SpaceX, & Moon Express
Field(s) of Interest: Field(s) Space, Inventor, Engineer & Entrepreneurship
5. Joaquin Cortacans, 17, Uruguay
Public Outreach & Founder of Jóvenes Bajo la Lupa
When 15-year-old Cortacans became the first Uruguayan to attend Space Camp through a scholarship, he couldn’t keep the knowledge to himself, and quickly became known as a STEAM and space advocate. Cortacans began giving talks on TV and radio, and he spoke to the Uruguayan Congress about increasing STEAM opportunities in his home country. Now 17, Cortacans has since started a nonprofit organization called Jóvenes Bajo la Lupa, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of science and to create a place for those who wanted to share their passion for STEAM.
Affiliations: ESO Astronomy Camp, Space Camp, Universidad Tecnológica del Uruguay (UTEC) & Interact
Field of Interest: Science
6. Bethany Downer, Age 23, Canada
Science Communicator, Public Outreach & Founder of Reaching Space Science
Downer impressively marries her passions for space, wildlife and helping others into everything she does. For example, she helped reintroduce wood bison in Alaska for a wildlife conservation project, and she founded an international nonprofit called One Step Shoe Recycling, which keeps unwanted shoes to redistribute to people in need worldwide. Additionally, Downer has taken her education and done something important for the public: she founded ReachingSpaceScience.org, which explains workings of the space industry in a way that it can be understood and valued by all. Today, you can find Downer giving video and in-person talks to classrooms and adult lectures to educate about a variety of space-related topics, including solar evolution, planetary geology, black holes and dark matter.
Affiliations: European Space Agency, International Space University, Memorial University, Space Generation Advisory Council
Field(s) of Interest: Science Communication, Conservation & Philanthropy
7. Paola Figueroa-Delgado, 22, Puerto Rico
Public Outreach & Founder of National Neuroscience Student Association
Growing up in a small rural Puerto Rico town has motivated Figueroa-Delgado to provide experiences and public outreach in STEAM fields to diverse students from underrepresented communities. Her outreach work began with a fellowship position at the Arecibo Observatory, where she served as a mentor to underrepresented pre-college students interested in pursuing a career in STEAM. During her undergraduate studies, Figueroa-Delgado founded the National Neuroscience Student Association, and she coordinated TEDxUPR, which shared scientific discoveries, insights and solutions with students all over Puerto Rico. Figueroa-Delgado is an NIH BP-ENDURE Research Fellow and was awarded an internship at Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology. Figueroa-Delgado volunteers in her community at animal shelters, refugee centers and at the Veterans Affairs Caribbean Health Care System.
Affiliations: Arecibo Observatory, Princeton, TEDx, NIH
Field(s) of Interest: Neuroscience, Molecular Biology & Health Care
8. Jacqueline Grundfast, Age 17, United States
Public Outreach & Founder Warwick Valley Central School District Astronomy Club
Grundfast is taking her love of space and works hard to inspire her community to do the same. She established the Warwick Valley Central School District Astronomy Club, and she can be found judging STEAM Fairs in her district as well as teaching and mentoring young students in their research and science studies. This work inspired her to secure funding from her school district to build a robotic telescope for her community, promoting night sky exploration. In addition to doing a tremendous amount of outreach for her community, Grundfast still somehow finds time to be a high school student and a member of numerous national scholar societies. We’ll be hearing more about Grundfast!
Field(s) of Interest: Astronomy, Robotics
9. Pranvera Hyseni, Age 22, Kosovo
Public Outreach & Founder of Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo
Hyseni, 22, is the Founder and Director of Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo. In this role, she provides invaluable telescope training to educators, STEAM resources to local schools and more. In fact, she was specially asked to develop an astronomical education program for the Ministry of Education of Kosovo, and is routinely asked to represent Kosovo at countless science conferences. With many exciting ventures in her future, Hyseni also recently had an asteroid named after her by the International Astronomical Union.
Affiliations: International Astronomical Union, Ministry of Education of Kosovo
Field(s) of Interest: Astronomy & Public Outreach
10. Roger Lascorz, Age 24, Catalonia
Public Outreach & Founder of Physics & Aerospace Are Awesome
In pursuit of a space research program, Lascorz immigrated to the United States at a young age. Still only 24 years old, Lascorz already has an impressive academic resume, has published a paper with groundbreaking research on how to more efficiently extract hydrogen from water, has presented at many scientific conferences and has won numerous awards for his research. While a graduate student, he was a critical part of a major campaign promoting mental health on his campus. Today, Lascorz continues his public outreach through his organization called “Physics and Aerospace Are Awesome,” where people all over the world can discuss space and science. This resource has half a million followers worldwide!
Affiliations: Georgia Institute of Technology, University of West Georgia, Gamma Betta Phi, Aerospace Systems Design Lab, Experimental Aerodynamics Group
Field(s) of Interest: Aerospace Engineering & Physics
11. Kaitlyn Ludlam, Age 15, United States
Public Outreach & Founder of SWE Next at Fleming Island HS
Ludlam is an aspiring biomedical engineer who dreams of working for NASA as an astronaut. Not even old enough to drive, 15-year-old Ludlam is still highly active in her local community, spreading STEAM opportunities to students and doing public outreach to encourage women and girls to pursue STEAM careers. She is on three FIRST robotics teams, promotes the #FIRSTLikeAGirl movement through Renaissance Jax and much more. Ludlam makes time for her other interests in life aside from science by serving as a mentor for younger girls and volunteers in the American Sign Language community.
Affiliations: FIRST Robotics Competition, FIRST Tech Challenge & Society of Women Engineers
Field(s) of Interest: Engineering & Medicine
12. Tessa McEvoy, Age 17, United States
Science Communicator & Artist & Founder of Space Cadet Wannabe
Some say creativity and STEAM are opposite worlds. That couldn’t be further from the truth for McEvoy, who uses her artistic talents and passion for science with the same pen stroke. By the time McEvoy was 11, she’d already launched her award-winning origami business, Outside the Box Origami and Gifts. For the past two years, McEvoy has worked hard to promote The Mars Generation, going out of her way to help generate excitement around space exploration through her illustrations, including a 23-page coloring book, “Color Me Mars Generation,” that she gifted to The Mars Generation. She’s also published an ongoing series about a “Space Cadet Wannabe,” creatively telling stories and adventures of a young girl with dreams to be an astronaut. Now 17, McEvoy continues to do what she loves, helping make science even more colorful.
Field(s) of Interest: Science Communications, Illustration & Animation
13. Katherine McKinney, Age 17, United States
Scientist & Founder of Kentucky STAR Center
McKinney, only a junior in high school, is in the process of publishing her first scientific paper, and in the future, she plans to study the effects of space on the human body. For now, she is an advisor for her home state of Kentucky’s STEAM collaborative and often speaks to groups and the media about the importance of student involvement in science. Noticing a lack of neuroscience research resources when she was 16, McKinney founded Kentucky STAR Center as a laboratory makerspace just for students. She is working as an intern for SpaceTango, and has been involved with more than 15 investigations that have been sent to the International Space Station.
Affiliations: NASA International Space Station, SpaceTango
Field(s) of Interest: Neuroscience & Medicine
14. Maanasa Mendu, Age 13, United States
Patent Pending Inventor & Scientist
Mendu, 13, found herself curious and concerned about the problem of energy scarcity in developing countries, and she took this inspiration to the lab. She’s developed HARVEST (patent pending), an energy harvesting device that employs the Piezoelectric effect. The device takes advantage of unused ambient wind, sunlight and precipitation. Mendu is working on larger and more efficient iterations of this technology, and she just might dramatically shift how developing nations use energy all around the world.
Affiliations: Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Forbes 30 Under 30, Tedx
Field(s) of Interest: Science, Engineering & Entrepreneurship
15. Collin Mitchell, Age 18, United States
Robotics Mentor & Founding Member of FTC team #7187, Team Axis ITR
Mitchell started mentoring and established his first robotics club at the age of 12. In high school, Mitchell continued, founding a FIRST Tech Challenge Team, #7187 Team Axis, which directly benefited 35 students. Although it was an admirable achievement, he didn’t stop there. He lobbied his school district to expand school-based robotics programs. Through his own robotics team, Mitchell was involved with community service initiatives with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Cancer Society, and Helping Hands (building prosthetic hands for landmine amputees). Mitchell has done a lot of work recently mentoring other mentors, donating thousands of dollars with of new books and school supplies and packing more than six tons of food for the Oregon Food Bank. His team has built 11 prosthetic hands, and they’ve planned and conducted about 100 STEAM outreach events. Mitchell is busy making the world a better place through his passion for science!
Affiliations: FIRST Tech Challenge, University of California Santa Cruz & Helping Hands
Field(s) of Interest: Engineering & Robotics
16. Temidayo Oniosun, Age 22, Nigeria
Youth Mentor, Inventor & Founder of University Space Club
Oniosun, a 22-year-old inventor from Nigeria, serves as the Regional Coordinator in Africa for the Space Generation Advisory Council. In his leadership role, he works to engage students and young professionals in the national and international levels of space policy creation. He’s made it his goal to involve himself in the space industry and create innovative applications for data collection to promote socio-economic development. Oniosun founded the University Space Club aimed at raising the next generation of Space Leaders – it is currently the largest space club in Africa. As a YouthMappers fellow, he works to create and use open-source software for geographic information, an invaluable tool for the US Agency for International Development.
Affiliations: SGAC, YouthMappers, FUTA, ISpatial Technologies
Field(s) of Interest: Science and Technology
17. Mylena Peixoto, Age 17, Brazil
Public Outreach & Founder of Mylena na NASA
When Peixoto was 15, she discovered five new asteroids during an astronomy project she worked on with her physics teacher. Peixoto was always a hardworking person, but this impressive set of discoveries fully ignited her passion for science, exploration and pursuing her dreams. In 2016, Peixoto was invited to the United States to visit NASA and take a course at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Last year, she won the first scholarship offered by the International Journal of Science & Technology (IJST), where she studied at the Kennedy Space Center and was named an IJST ambassador. She is now studying engineering and will be pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut. Peixoto has overcome immense adversity in her journey so far, and she continually proves to us that she has what it takes.
Affiliations: National Radio Astronomy Observatory, International Journal of Science & Technology
Field(s) of Interest: Engineering & Astronomy
18. Olivia Scharfman, Age 20, United States
Public Outreach & Founder of thinkTANC
Scharfman, 20, serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. As part of the largest and oldest student-run space advocacy organization, Scharfman is a role model for the next generation of scientists and spacefarers. She’s also a professional actor, starring in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions! Scharfman is now studying astrophysics and theater at Yale, and she founded thinkTANC, creating a way for her to continue her neurobiology research (on top of everything else!). Scharfman’s next goal is to obtain her pilot’s license to increase her eligibility to become an astronaut.
Affiliations: Students for the Exploration & Development of Space, Yale University, Actor’s Equity & Caltech Flying Club
Field(s) of Interest: Astrophysics & Theater
19. Julie Sage, Age 13, United States
Public Outreach, Mentor & Founder of Supernova Style Science News
Sage knew when she was six years old that she wanted to be an astrophysicist, inspired by Stephen Hawking, and she has wasted no time beginning to work for that goal. She’s participated in amateur telescope-making, has learned to code, shown coding demonstrations at her middle school and is doing public outreach through her YouTube channel, “Supernova Style Science News.” Sage is a member of the Clay Center Amateur Radio Club, which send two experiments on a NASA sounding rocket and four experiments on a high-altitude balloon funded by idoodleLearning. Her dream job is to study black holes, and if she’s already working this hard when she’s 13, there’s no limit to what she will do!
Affiliations: Girls Who Code, Cubes in Space, Clay Center Amateur Radio Club
Field(s) of Interest: Science, Mathematics & Coding
20. Krittanon Pond Sirorattanakul, Age 22, Thailand
Sirorattanakul is one of the specially selected recipients of the Royal Thai Scholarship to study at United States universities. That level of honor is not surprising with a young person’s caliber as that of Sirorattanakul. The 22-year-old has quite the resume. One research project of his resulted in a discovery of a significant change in a Cepheid variable stars pulsation period, published in The Astronomical Journal. He received a Lee Teng Fellowship in Accelerator Science and Engineering to intern at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and attend the U.S. Particle School. Among many other achievements, with a NASA-funded grant, Sirorattanakul developed “Science on a Sphere,” an educational program for middle school students to excite kids about the interconnectedness of earth systems. Sirorattanakul is continuing to work toward his goal of returning to Thailand as a research professor to educate the public about earthquakes, their risks and associated hazard mitigation.
Affiliations: Lehigh University, The Astronomical Journal, Nurture Nature Center
Field(s) of Interest: Physics, Earth Science & Seismology Studies
21. Lisa Stojanovski, Age 24, Australia
Stojanovski works in New Zealand for Rocket Lab, a small-sat launch provider, and she’s a host on TMRO, a live web show about humanity’s exploration of the cosmos. Her thesis in graduate school at International Space University focused on “Atmospheric Requirements for a Martian Greenhouse,” which was presented as part of the 2016 International Astronautical Congress. If that doesn’t speak well enough to her leadership in space research and communication, Stojanovski has also served as the Regional Point of Contact for the Space Generation Advisory Council. Stojanovski was invited to share her skills as a scientist and communicator in order to help develop the Australian Space Agency.
Affiliations: International Space University, TMRO, Shell Questacon Science Circus, Rocket Lab, Space Generation Advisory Council
Field(s) of Interest: Science Communications, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
22. Shi Tuck, Age 19, United States
Inventor & Founder, Ben Davis HS Astronomy Club
Tuck, 19, has made it her mission to share her love for STEAM and space with women and minority communities. Starting in high school, she founded and Astronomy Club and hosted a two-day “Space Day” event for more than 1,000 elementary students and raised enough funds to purchase and donate 300 science textbooks for elementary schools in her district. Her work today includes CubeSat design, Martian rovers and research with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. Upon graduation from Stanford University, Tuck plans to work as an Electrical Engineer in the aerospace industry and continue her volunteer work in disenfranchised communities, serving as a mentor to future STEAM students.
Affiliations: Wright Patterson AFRL, Stanford University
Field(s) of Interest: Engineering & Astronomy
23. Allie Weber, Age 12, United States
Patent Pending Inventor & Science Communicator
With a passion for learning and a knack for inventing, 12-year-old Weber contributes to STEAM education through a robust social media presence and her YouTube channel, “Tech-nic-Allie Speaking.” She uses these channels to share about science projects and to promote ways for other students to get involved themselves. Beginning her inventing career early, Weber developed an internal glove system called “Frost Stopper” (patent pending) that monitors cold temperatures and alerts wearers to avoid frostbite. Weber has goals for earning a doctorate degree in engineering or business to pursue her entrepreneurial passion for starting a company around her own innovations.
Affiliations: Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, FIRST Lego League, Makers Faire
Field(s) of Interest: Technology, Engineering & Science Communications
24. Melissa Vazquez-Hornik, 24, United States
Imagine being assigned to a team to get to Mars, and then being told to live and work with this small group of people constantly for three years or more. Vazquez-Hornik’s research is devoted to studying psychological factors associated with teams and long-duration missions and how we can help teams stay functional under such intense pressures. Her current research involves an international effort between U.S. and Russian space agencies with the Institute of Biomedical Problems to examine interpersonal perceptions and traits when it comes to managing space crews in isolated and confined environments. Vazquez-Hornik is making enormous advances to an understated part of space exploration. In addition to her research, Vazquez-Hornik volunteers with the Jewish United Fund, Chicago Lights Tutoring and serves as a director for the Hornik Family Foundation to support communities in need.
Affiliations: University of Central Florida, DePaul University, Illinois Space Grant Consortium
Field of Interest: Science & Psychology