The Mars Generation Announces 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Award Winners for 2019

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, UNITED STATES, April 23, 2019 / The Mars Generation (TMG) announced its second class of 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Award winners. The group is comprised of young people from around the world who are breaking barriers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) fields and bringing the sciences to the public through multidisciplinary interests. The youngest winner of this international recognition is 13 years old. To qualify for consideration nominees must be members of TMG’s Student Space Ambassador Leadership Program, be under the age of 24 on January 1, 2019, and be involved in work or a project that is focused on STEAM.

“The 24 Under 24 awards elevate youth accomplishments in STEAM fields, empowering and encouraging them to continue working for a brighter future,” said Abigail Harrison, Founder, The Mars Generation. “This year’s 24 Under 24 are doing exceptional work in STEAM, and perhaps even more importantly, in bringing STEAM interest and education beyond their computers and labs, including to rural towns and underrepresented communities.”

Sponsored in 2019 by the United Launch Alliance, the winners for 24 Under 24 are involved in a variety of STEAM interests, including designing mobile apps for social causes, founding nonprofits for science education and inclusion, building open-source lead detection technology, 3D printing prosthetic limbs, developing multi-state star party programs, and facilitating in-class programs in areas of the world where science education has not previously been a priority.

The winners are not only active in academic communities, but also in helping to lift up underrepresented voices—inspiring young people to reach for their goals, improving accessibility in STEAM fields, and creating films or writing books about their discoveries. The 24 Under 24 embody the philosophy of “going above and beyond”–many of them founding their own organizations and/or mentoring young people.

“Working with the 24 Under 24 awards program to identify and catalyze the efforts of young people in STEAM is important to innovation and advancement of industries worldwide,” said Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance and The Mars Generation Advisory Board Member. “We know that, given the right tools and the right support, today’s youth can have a tremendous impact on changing the world both now and in the future.”

“Like those youth honored in our inaugural 24 Under 24 class, this year’s winners are ambassadors of The Mars Generation mission to build a stronger tomorrow by energizing our youth today about space and STEAM no matter what it takes,” said Harrison. “STEAM changes the world, and so do people who not only innovate, but also share ideas with passion. That’s what 24 Under 24 is about, and how our 2019 class shines.”

The 2019 winners of the 24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space are:

1) Laalitya Acharya, Age 15, United States

Youth Mentor / Scientist                   

Laalitya Acharya_24 Under 24_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Ever since she was a young child, Acharya has been asking “why?” and “how?” She believes STEM is here to solve real-world problems and improve lives, and she got to work early. During middle school, she built a robot that can detect mines and IEDs. When she saw India’s energy poverty and smog-filled sky, she started tinkering with the idea of non-conventional, sustainable energy. Now, in tenth grade, Acharya is working on an innovation that can be trained to automatically identify signs of diabetes. Despite her young age, she has won many impressive awards. Firmly believing kids are here to change the present, Acharya tutors children about STEAM at local science institutes and helps them with their school work at a local library. In the years to come, she plans to continue mentoring kids and solving the world’s problems. Did we mention she was one of 10 finalists for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge in 2017? Pretty amazing!

2) Payton Barnwell, Age 21, United States

Co-Founder / Engineer

Payton Barnwell_24 Under 24_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

In May 2019, Barnwell will graduate from Florida Polytechnic University with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, and she’s leaving behind nothing short of a science legacy. In her first year of college, Barnwell co-founded Florida Poly’s first space interest club, “ASTRO,” and worked on a NASA Florida Space Research Program grant relating to space radiation resistance. In her sophomore year, she was executive director of the educational exploration program, “Splash at Poly,” which brought 300+ high school students on campus for classes taught by college students. In summer 2017, Barnwell interned at NASA Kennedy Space Center where she researched optimal LED light “recipes” for plants grown aboard the International Space Station. To close out her undergraduate experience, Barnwell co-founded SEDS at Florida Poly, helped lead research relating to landfill leachate cleanup, and organized an independent study course focused on producing educational materials that bring the humanities back into STEM for a more well-rounded experience. After graduation, she plans to play a part in furthering space exploration and continue volunteering to show younger generations that EVERYONE has a place in space.

3) Hunar Batra, Age 19, India


Hunar Batra_24 Under 24_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Batra, a 19-year-old computer scientist, believes that nothing is impossible, so a knack for inventing came to her immediately, and so did using those powers for good. ‪Among many other projects, Batra helped develop drones for delivering vaccinations and disaster relief materials to remote areas. Intrigued by the rise of voice assistants, she is working on a voice application project to provide healthcare literacy to rural population in regional languages in India. She is a lead for Developer Student Club powered by Google Developers at her campus, the University of Delhi, India, through which she aims to inspire more girls to get involved in the magical world of technology. Batra presented her ideation paper on Ingestible Robots at the 15th WONCA World Rural Health Conference in New Delhi in 2018. She also actively volunteers for Computer Literacy Program to educate school students about basic computer literacy. We are excited to see how many impossible things she proves  possible.

4) Abigail Bollenbach, Age 17, United States

Scientist / Inventor

Abigail Bollenbach_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Within a year of joining the Bartlesville Astronomical Society (BAS), Bollenbach started as a presenter for BAS, providing monthly summaries of current astronomy news and larger topics such as famous rocket crashes, how to make an astrophotography tracking mount, and Northern sky constellations. Through BAS, Bollenbach began teaching for multiple outreach programs for local schools, festivals and libraries. In 2018, her op-editorial, “From Dolls to Dinosaurs,” about women and girls being successful in pursuit of careers in STEAM, was published in the Tulsa World. This January, she organized members of her adult and youth astronomy club to sort through 50,000 donated solar glasses to provide the opportunity for schools and institutions in South America to safely view the total solar eclipse in July 2019.  Bollenbach recently filed a patent for gamma-ray shielding to make space travel less harmful to biological entities titled “Quantum Locked Fluxing Shielding.” After her higher education is complete, she’s looking forward to one day working for a space-related company as a scientist.

5) Naia Butler-Craig, Age 21, United States

Engineer / Space Advocate

Naia Butler-Craig_24 Under 24 Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

A 21-year-old engineer with a robust and impressive resume, Butler-Craig has been admitted into Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering doctoral programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, and Purdue University. However, following her graduation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU ) in May, she will be matriculating into the Aerospace Engineering doctoral program at Georgia Tech, specializing in electric propulsion. If earning multiple scholarships for her engineering and advocacy weren’t enough, Butler-Craig has founded the ERAU chapter of the Society of Women in Space Exploration and the dance team at her university. For the past three years, she has actively volunteered for a STEM and Aviation outreach nonprofit called Dreams Soar. Butler-Craig is also active in other professional clubs like the McNair Scholars Program and the National Society of Black Engineers, where she recently served on the regional executive board. Through both organizations, Butler-Craig has had the opportunity to reach the next generation of STEAM and Aviation professionals through speaking and mentoring youth.

6) Simon Bouriat, Age 23, France


Simon Bouriat_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Bouriat has an unstoppable curiosity for everything related to science, philosophy, and medicine, and he wants to merge it all in his one passion: space. At 23, Bouriat already has three degrees with a catalog of extracurricular activities. He was the head of his school’s team for the European Student Aerospace Challenge in 2016, where he investigated brainwaves and worked on medical ways to reduce motion sickness in suborbital or space flights. Bouriat plans on putting all his effort into the development of training for future space missions to Mars. He took part in an analog mission in 2017 at the Mars Desert Research Station in the Utah Desert. This mission was such a great success, Simon was asked on a new, two-week Martian analog mission in the LunAres station located in Piła, Poland. Hoping to be the first European person on Mars, Bouriat wants to deeply understand all the skills needed for being a Marsonaute.

7) Aja Capel, Age 15, United States

Founder / Engineer / Mentor

Aja Capel_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Nothing in Capel’s house was safe when she was around–she would take everything apart from a young age. Her parents took a hint and enrolled her in robotics at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum at age 4 so she would take other people’s stuff apart for a change. And it worked. Capel has been building robots ever since. She is dyslexic, dysgraphic, ADHD, CAPD, a different thinker, and an out-of-the-box problem solver. At just 15, Capel has started four robotics teams and has amassed hundreds of hours as Lead Robotics Instructor at the same museum where she first began. But for Capel, it’s not just about the robots. She uses her interests as a catalyst to provide STEM experience and exposure to kids and minorities. Over time, she saw the power of visibility and exposure–you cannot be what you do not see. So she centralized her efforts by creating her own organization, See Me in STEM (, which provides opportunities to other underrepresented youth facing their own unique challenges.  Through her See Me organization, Capel is also creating STEM programming for eight different community organizations and has also been asked to consider a partnership to bring her outreach to girls in Africa. What does the future hold for Capel? She plans to attend a 4-year university majoring in mechanical engineering with a concentration in robotics, and she sees herself as CEO of her own technology company someday.

8) Julia Di, Age 22, United States

Founder / Engineer / STEM Advocate

Julia Di_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

As a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow at Stanford University, Diworks on improving tactile sensors for space robots and tactile displays for humans. She is also a DFJ Entrepreneurial Leaders Fellow and is interested in aerospace venture capital and early-stage space startups, hoping to start her own soon. She has previously worked at Generation Orbit as a Brooke Owens Fellow, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and Carleton Laboratory. Di graduated with her bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Computer Science from Columbia University in 2018. As a student, she co-founded the Columbia Space Initiative (CSI). Now, as one of Columbia’s most popular engineering organizations, CSI has entered and won multiple NASA design challenges, presented all around NYC, and taught K-12 students about aerospace engineering. Di was also President of Women in Computer Science, a Super User in the Columbia MakerSpace, and a volunteer at maker shows like HackNY. She is passionate about outreach, space awareness, and supporting women and underrepresented minorities in STEAM.

9) Archika Dogra, Age 17, United States

Founder / Computer Scientist

Archika Dogra_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

At just 17 years old, Archika has an impressive amount of work experience under her belt, and it’s easy to see her work is driven by wanting to help others and catalyze positive change. In 2017, Archika was a student researcher in the Stanford AI Outreach Laboratory Summer Program, during which she worked on a satellite imagery-based computer vision model to map poverty in Uganda. In 2018, Archika achieved her dreams of becoming a NASA intern through the STEM Enhancement and Earth Science program, working on a team to create a flood-response application at the Center for Space Research in Austin, Texas. Archika has also worked for the University of Washington co-developing mobile applications. Along with programming and scientific research, Archika is also passionate about tackling the diversity crisis in STEM education. In 2017, she co-founded The EduSTEM Initiative, an international organization that seeks to educate, encourage, and empower underrepresented minorities in STEM through STEMX curriculum. She is also the President of Technology Student Association at her school, the President of TEDxYouth@Redmond, and is on the IEEE High School AI Ethics Board. For her leadership, she has been recognized as a 2018 she++ fellow, a 2018 HERLead fellow, and a 2019 Global Teen Leader. Lastly, as a 2019 Global Citizen Scholar, she will be traveling to Panama this summer to partake in field research within Panama’s diverse ecosystem.

10) Tiera Fletcher, Age 24, United States

Founder / Engineer

Tiera Fletcher_24 Under 24_STEM Awards_he Mars Generation_2019

Fletcher is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a bachelor’s of science degree in Aerospace Engineering obtained in 2017. During her senior year at MIT, Fletcher worked as a Rocket Structural Design and Analysis Engineer at The Boeing Company, specifically working on NASA’s Space Launch System, which will enable us to send humans to Mars and beyond. She received the Albert G. Hill Prize for her leadership in bettering the black community at MIT and served as the Co-Chair of the Black Students Union and Black Women’s Alliance. Fletcher leveraged her college experiences to launch her career as a full-time Rocket Engineer at The Boeing Company . In addition to working as a rocket scientist, Fletcher travels the world to motivate people to pursue STEM and follow their dreams. Fletcher and her husband founded Rocket With The Fletchers to act on that mission to promote the importance of education and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. Currently, she is co-authoring a children’s book called Wonder Women of Science that features 12 groundbreaking female scientists of today and it is set to be released in 2021. Fletcher enjoys outreach, travelling, and spending time with her husband and son.

11) Lee Giat, Age 20, United States

STEM Founder/Filmmaker

Lee Giat_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Giat is a junior at the University of North Florida studying astrophysics and multimedia production, and he’s the founder of his own production company. He began filmmaking at the age of 7 and has since become an internationally-acclaimed videographer. Giat produced a Russian TV show in 2016, holds over 15 national awards, and has two short films screening at Festival De Cannes. At the age of 14, Giat took his camera and entered the world of STEM when he began volunteering at the Fox Observatory in South Florida. It was there he received his NASA Night Sky Astronomy certification, and it led him to his current position as an astronomy presenter in Jacksonville’s Bryan-Gooding Planetarium. Now a pilot, aspiring astronaut, and science communicator, Giat molded all of his passions to create “The STEM,” a monthly YouTube series that adventurously explores modern space and science. He hopes to continue creating episodes of The STEM and is pursuing his goal of directing the first major motion picture in space.

12) James Gong, Age 20, United States

Scientist / Filmmaker  

James Gong_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

At 20 years old, Gong knows his life’s mission, and it is to share his love for space and STEAM with others. In his first year of college, Gong co-founded the Columbia Space Initiative,  and, with his group, he has led teams of students to participate in national NASA engineering competitions. Gong also teaches STEM outreach at schools and museums around New York. In his work experience, he has sought to combine his passion for both art and technology across a range of space research. He last interned in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s OpsLab, where he worked on augmented reality technology for space missions. The summer before, he worked at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic studio, developing computer graphics tools. Gong is currently working on an artistic payload to fly on a Blue Origin New Shepard launch in 2019. An avid filmmaker, Gong also has expressed his love for space through several short films, and through his producer role at Columbia Undergraduate Film Productions, he is currently working on a slate of films related to digital technology.

13) Anagha Krishnan, Age 20, United States

Founder / Researcher

Anagha Krishnan_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Krishnan is a third-year biomedical engineering undergraduate student and an accomplished researcher. Her fields of study span across lymphatic microfluidic models, phononic crystals for improved ultrasound imaging, and earth’s field magnetic resonance imaging, all earning her significant recognition. Krishnan has shared her research at numerous conferences, including the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Meeting as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. When she is not working in the lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Krishnan enjoys working in STEM outreach, particularly with young women. Krishnan founded TheGirlCodeProject, a Google and NCWIT-backed organization dedicated to leveraging computer science to teach young women soft skills such as confidence and resiliency. She also served on the board of Stempower, an organization that partnered with The Girl Scouts of America to enhance extracurricular STEM programming for young girls. Krishnan will be pursuing an MD/PhD and hopes to study the interactions between immune cells and the tumor microenvironment to develop better immunotherapeutic drugs to treat cancer.

14) Sarah Lamm, Age 23, United States

STEM Advocate / Scientist

Sarah Lamm_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Lamm is a doctoral student in Planetary Science at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. She graduated from Kansas State University in 2018 with three bachelors of science degrees in chemistry, geology, and geography. Lamm interned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for three summers during her undergraduate years. She continues her work on the ChemCam instrument on the Mars rover, Curiosity, during graduate school. During her last semester at Kansas State University, Lamm decided to take all online classes, which would allow her to do science outreach in rural Kansas. In rural communities, there is a lack of job diversity, especially in STEM pathways, so it is imperative to Lamm to show students the vast possibilities that exist for a career in science. For some students, Lamm may be the only non-teacher scientist they ever meet, and she realizes it is important that the students see that scientists can be from anywhere and achieve great things, all while following their passions. Lamm estimates she has given a space-related presentation to approximately 550 people–or a tenth of her hometown.

15) Casey Mann, Age 24, United States


Casey Mann_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Mann’s spark for STEM began in high school, when she joined her local FIRST robotics team. Later, as an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida, she created autonomous mini-bots, license plate AI tracking software, and a first-stage hybrid rocket. Mann joined many clubs and organizations while she was at UCF, including Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Students for Exploration and Development of Space, and the Astronomy Club. Mann has also been able to work on meaningful projects like the Asset Acquisition of the Arecibo Observatory. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, funding for the world’s second largest radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory, was cut. An alliance among UCF, NASA, and a few local organizations was made to ensure funding continued for objectives like monitoring  close-call asteroids, possible habitable planets, and broadcasting messages towards clusters of stars. Mann, now graduated, works as a Verification Engineer at DRS Technologies, Inc. in Melbourne, FL. By becoming a subject matter expert in the electro-optical and infrared systems field, she plans to bring this early career experience into a late career in space exploration, while continuing to engage in local communities like FIRST, SWE and other Women’s developmental programs.

16) Carlla Martins, Age 20, Brazil

Founder / Engineer  

Carlla Martins_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Being the daughter of a female mathematics teacher, Martins grew up with a passion for exact sciences. Martins attended high school with a concentration in mechatronics and fell in love with both programming and robotics. Also passionate about scientific olympiads, at the age of 16, Martins teamed up with friends and, founded a social project called “Projeto Cosmos” to teach astronomy and bring science to schools in a fun and hands-on way. Since Martins founded Projeto Cosmos four years ago, it has already influenced many students and received national awards as a social impact initiative and also for its scientific divulgation work. Martins is now in her last year of undergrad in computer engineering at the Federal University of Amazonas and wishes to use the skills she has learned to develop solutions to help solve social problems. She will continue empowering young leaders and  encouraging girls to go into STEM fields.

17) Sophya Mirza, Age 16, United States

Founder / Engineer

Sophya Mirza_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Not too many people can say their earliest achievements include building alternating current electromagnetic generators and deciphering the artificial intelligence behind tactile and photocell navigating mechanisms that play a key role in developing rovers such as Curiosity. At the age of 12, Mirza integrated her engineering skills in music by working with an engineering teacher in establishing the first 3D-printed functioning violin, which she was able to give to her school’s orchestra. But it was not until Mirza was accepted into the California Academy of Mathematics and Science that she reached, what she feels, is one of her greatest peaks. Mirza is driven to see female presence thrive in the male-dominated engineering industry. Among Mirza’s many interests is the practice of Muay Thai kickboxing. Having an interest in combining martial arts and engineering, Mirza began using computer aided design techniques in CADing equipment like her own personalized mouth piece that she later created. She was later able to integrate that software to work on prosthetic limbs. Mirza hopes to attend MIT with a double major in aerospace engineering and computer science.

18) Avika Patel, Age 17, United States

Founder / Author

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One of Patel’s biggest accomplishments include founding #innovate, an international student-run nonprofit that works with multiple organizations to empower minority students with the computer-science skills needed to solve problems in their communities. Through outreach initiatives, Avika has been able to reach more than 20,000 students, be a certified organization under the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, and create curriculum for multiple schools. Additionally, Patel  is an avid voicer for women in computer science, and through her speaking engagements, she’s had the opportunity to speak alongside female professionals from Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, and Zillow. Patel is also a two-time published author–one book encouraging underrepresented middle school girls to get involved in computer science and another book on the water cycle that has been published and incorporated into the educational lessons of 20 school districts. she has had the privilege to work with NASA, Northrop Grumman, Rocket Labs, and many other companies and colleges to program a CubeSat that would deploy in space and be able to downlink data on the Crab Nebula for astronomy lessons in schools. In the future, Patel hopes to bring her skills in leadership and business to starting a company revolving around computer science and space exploration.

19) Olivia Pierce, Age 17, United States

Founder / Engineer

Olivia Pierce_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

When she was in seventh grade, Pierce begrudgingly attended a STEM summit for girls at a nearby college. Although she didn’t want to go, her attitude shifted as she heard from all the inspiring women presenters. After that day, she became excited about STEM and began to dream of studying engineering in college. However, she distinctly remembers being disappointed because she and one other girl were the only girls from their school there. She knew she was lucky to have a transformative experience like this, but hundreds of girls from her town would not have the same luck. A few years later, Olivia decided that if her school wouldn’t send girls to the program, she would bring the program to them– and thus the Easton Middle School STEM Discovery Conference was born. Pierce found eight presenters to speak to the students about their respective STEM fields: space, engineering, math, computer science, nanotechnology, and medicine. Pierce promoted the event herself online, writing for the local newspaper and speaking in front of the school board. It was important to Pierce to to ensure diversity among the presenters and that every student in Easton had the opportunity to be inspired as she once was. The conference proved to be a great success with more than 70 students attending. Now 17, Pierce is working towards expanding the program to other high schools so that even more students can have hands-on STEM experiences. She plans to attend college in 2020, where she will study mechanical and aerospace engineering.

20) Gitanjali Rao, Age 13, United States

Inventor / Scientist

Gitanjali Rao_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Rao is 13 years old and has already been recognized by the EPA Presidential award, 3M Young Scientist Challenge 2017 Award, and Forbes 30 Under 30 for her science and community service achievements. A Davidson Young Scholar since she was six years old, Rao has recently open-sourced her lead detector invention processor and app code for the community, and it has been since used for other applications. She is continuing to perform accuracy testing in Denver Water for the lead sensor. When this eighth-grader isn’t researching lead detection technology or shadowing 3D printer designers, Rao is volunteering for an anti-bullying organization or playing piano at local assisted living centers. Today, Rao is conducting research in University of Colorado, Denver, in the department of Cell Biology to find a solution for prescription opioid addiction using the latest in genetic engineering. Rao aspires to study genetics and epidemiology, and she hopes to keep writing, discovering, and sharing her knowledge in the future.

21) Jordan Reeves, Age 13, United States

Founder / Inclusivity Advocate

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Reeves is the co-founder of the nonprofit, Born Just Right. From day one, this 13-year-old has pushed through expectations and has shown how living with a disability can lead to awesome opportunities. Through public speaking and mentoring other kids with limb differences, Reeves works to change attitudes around physical differences. She is changing what we think about disability by designing a body enhancement (a 3D-printed prosthetic) that allows her to shoot biodegradable sparkles for her alter ego, Glitter Girl. Reeves is also one of four founding members of the STEAM Squad, a group of girls who work together to get other kids involved in science, technology, engineering, art and math. Through the Born Just Right organization’s BOOST workshops, more kids with disabilities are getting the chance to learn design thinking. Reeves is working to raise awareness about her success and hopes to change the perception of physical disabilities. In June, she and her mom will release a book through Simon & Schuster called Born Just Right. The book is written about her life story and explains how anyone can use STEAM skills and their interests to help change the world.

22) Taylor Richardson, Age 15, United States

STEM Advocate

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Although Taylor Richardson has spoken at a number of events, her favorite moment came when she was introduced to her idol, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, at Clark Atlanta University’s commencement. Richardson, known as Astronaut Starbright, is an advocate, speaker and philanthropist. After winning the Governor’s Service Award in Florida for running a successful book drive and reading program called Taylor’s Take Flight, she was invited to a private screening of Hidden Figures at The White House with First Lady Michelle Obama and the film’s creators. That experience provided Richardson the inspiration to create a fundraising campaign that raised $20,000 to sponsor youth screenings of the film in various states and inspired other free youth screenings in 72 cities throughout 28 countries. A later fundraising campaign Richardson created for diversity and inclusion raised more than $100,000 for youth to see “A Wrinkle In Time,” in an effort to encourage STEM inclusion for youth. Richardson is also one of four founding members of the STEAM Squad, a group of girls who work together to get other kids involved in science, technology, engineering, art and math. What does the future hold for Richardson? She aspires to be an astronaut and to be one of the first to explore Mars, and she plans to continue inspiring young people to pursue careers in science.

23) Roberto Rodríguez-Otero, Age 19, Puerto Rico

Founder / Engineer

Roberto Rodrigues-Otero_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

At the age of 19, Puerto Rican native Rodríguez-Otero is designing and building a lunar habitat at the company he co-founded–Instarz, LLC. His work in the aerospace field began at the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy, where he formulated a design of a self-sustainable space settlement in Earth’s orbit. This granted Rodríguez-Otero a First Prize in the “NSS/NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest” and presented this project at the 2017 International Space Development Conference. As a mechanical engineering undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, Rodríguez-Otero has worked on projects designing Mars landers and building high-power rockets as well as participating in the NASA L’SPACE Academy. To spread knowledge and understanding about space in Puerto Rico, he also co-founded two nonprofit organizations, “Alpha Astrum” and the “Puerto Rico Aerospace Society”, a chapter of the National Space Society (NSS-PR), where he serves as the Technical Director and Secretary, respectively.

24) Maria Silva, Age 21, Brazil


Maria Silva_24 Under 24_Recipient_STEM Awards_The Mars Generation_2019

Silva, a 21-year-old physicist from Brazil, has wanted to be an astronaut since she was a child. At 14, she began developing projects to disseminate space sciences, with the goal of introducing the importance of space research in schools and in the whole community. Three years later, she met Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes, and, with his help, she met the scientist Professor Dr. Marcelo Souza, who invited her to participate in the official project of NASA – Mission Train Like an Astronaut in 2016. In that same year, Maria was ranked among three people at the NASA scientific writing contest, Cassini Scientist For a Day, and also received the certificate in the International Meeting of Astronomy and Astronautics–IMAA. Between 2012 and 2018, her project Program Pleiades promoted 23 science events in schools and communities. Silva also coordinated the Asteroid Day event in the city of Tangará da Serra and has already done 66 lectures for students and professors at various events. In December 2018, Silva was selected to participate in an exchange program in the United States, and she plans to continue her studies there.


About The Mars Generation

The Mars Generation is a volunteer-driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit with an advisory board that includes astronauts, engineers, scientists, and professionals from the nonprofit and business communities. Reaching millions of people since 2015, the organization has served students and adults from around the world through multiple programs, including the Student Space Ambassador Program, Future of Space Outreach Program, and Space Camp Scholarship Program. The Mars Generation is supported by private donors, members, influencer work, and major corporate sponsors. Through an innovative approach of leveraging new media technology and providing engaging content and programs, the organization aims to excite and educate students and adults about the importance of human space exploration and STEAM education to the future of humankind.

For more information on The Mars Generation, go to:


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