Tracy Caldwell Dyson knows what it really means to reach for the stars. Although she struggled to learn math in school, the unrelenting support of her parents helped Caldwell Dyson to overcome many challenges as a student. She went on to earn a PhD in Chemistry, and in 1998, she landed a job at NASA.
“I have to credit my parents. I never once heard from either one of them that ‘girls don’t do that,’” Caldwell Dyson said. “Neither my sister nor I ever had boundaries set upon us.”
Today, Caldwell Dyson is distinguished as one of the most influential women in the realm of contemporary space science – she is one of only 57 female astronauts to have traveled into outer space.
She said her experiences in space were incredibly astounding.
Tracy Caldwell Dyson: Even space is not a limitTracy Caldwell Dyson is distinguished as one of the most influential women in the realm of contemporary space science, she is one of only 57 female astronauts to have traveled into outer space.
“To realize that you’re a part of a tiny fraction of the human race to ever get to see the Earth from that vantage point is a very powerful thought,” Caldwell Dyson said.
But it doesn’t stop there – Caldwell Dyson is also recognized for her impact on the deaf community. During her time in space, she made a video to teach the deaf community about life on board the International Space Station. Her video not only enhanced other astronauts’ interest in sign language, but it also encouraged deaf students to become involved – and feel more included – in science and space endeavors.
From her own experiences studying math and science, the astronaut has come to believe that the key to engaging students in STEM learning lies in encouraging them to explore and harness their own sense of curiosity.
“I think when we lay that term out there, STEM, or even break it down into its components, we scare off kids. I didn’t grow up thinking I could be a scientist. But I asked a lot of questions and I was told that I was curious,” Caldwell Dyson said. “So for boys and girls alike, the emphasis has to be less on STEM and more on curiosity, because that is really the genesis of what it means to be a member of those fields. STEM is just the application of curiosity.”
On this episode of Full Frame, Caldwell Dyson told Mike Walter about some of her most memorable experiences as an astronaut, the exciting future of space travel, and the importance of inspiring young people to confidently pursue their dreams.