CHAPEL HILL, NC (WNCN) — Students from across Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools gathered for a special assembly Wednesday. The event was meant to inspire underrepresented and non-traditional students to pursue a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Each school from the district had sent questions to NASA for astronauts to answer from the International Space Station (ISS). Subjects ranged from life on the station, how to become an astronaut, and learning the science behind NASA’s work. Astronaut Frank Rubio and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen watched pre-recorded questions from the students that they answered in real-time from the ISS.
Before the ceremony, UNC freshman Pristine Onuoha spoke at the assembly about how crucial it is to explore scientific curiosity from a young age.
“I got to have a lot of different science experiences like in aquatic ecology, like in rivers, or involving like the heart. And so, those different opportunities just helped me get a broader sense of what science could look like,” said Onuoha.
Onuoha was born in Nigeria but has spent most of her life in North Carolina, and she’s called Chapel Hill home since the 1st grade. Her senior year, Onuoha won the 2022 Genes in Space contest, where NASA scientists performed an experiment that she designed from space.
Outside the assembly, middle and high school students explored the STEM fair. Dozens of booths offered information on careers in the sciences after high school. Military veteran Santino Sini said he chose Fayetteville State University for college, because of the opportunities in the computer sciences.
“We really came out here to get middle school and high school students interested in computer science. It’s a field that’s growing every day, especially at Fayetteville State University,” Sini said.