Blogs  |  3.3.2022

Women’s History Month: Igniting a Passion for STEM in Girls

Friday, March 18 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Challenger Center and AstraFemina are co-hosting a conversation on how we can ignite a passion for STEM in girls. Dr. Ashley Moore Williams (Apple), Dr. Carla Guzzardo (Blue Origin), Teresa Drew (Million Girls Moonshot), and Valerie Fitton-Kane (Challenger Center) will gather with Challenger Center and AstraFemina friends on Friday, March 18 to share their personal and professional insights into what it takes to engage girls in STEM and inspire them to become the innovators and explorers of tomorrow.

This event will be hosted over Zoom. Instructions for joining the event will be provided upon registration. We encourage you to submit questions for the speakers in advance by following the link here.

Dr. Ashley Moore Williams leads a modeling and simulation group for a research and development (R&D) project at Apple. In this role, her team focuses on the development of engineering software tools and analysis to provide insight for developing technologies and to influence technical and operational decisions. Previously, she worked in a number of roles at The Aerospace Corporation, most recently serving as director of the Studies and Analyses Office. In that role, her team performed analyses to understand and improve resiliency of the space enterprise. She began her career with an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. An analyst at her core, she focuses on modeling, simulation, data visualization, and systems engineering.

Raised in Colorado, Dr. Williams studied Aerospace Engineering and Applied Mathematics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, earning bachelor’s degrees in both subjects in 2006. Next, she attended the California Institute of Technology, earning a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2007 and a Ph.D. in Control and Dynamical Systems in 2011. Her thesis focused on the optimization of spacecraft trajectories using invariant manifolds of the three-body problem.

Passionate about the development of future engineers, she enjoys mentoring and participating in STEM events. At The Aerospace Corporation, Dr. Williams was very involved with the intern program, developing events to inspire, challenge, and build community. She also loves teaching, and previously taught a MATLAB programming course at the University of Southern California and Orbital Mechanics at California State University Long Beach.

Dr. Carla Guzzardo serves as a Systems Engineer within Advanced Development Programs at Blue Origin, an aerospace company. In that role, Dr. Guzzardo has developed requirements and helped guide conceptual design of Blue Origin’s moon lander and an advanced space mobility platform. Before discovering systems engineering, Dr. Guzzardo worked as a mechanical design engineer on rocket engine test stands, starting at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, and eventually moving to Blue Origin’s facilities in Kent, WA, and West Texas.

Dr. Guzzardo’s academic background includes a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with specializations in Space Mission and Spacecraft Design, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana State University (LSU). Dr. Guzzardo is a first generation college graduate. She is passionate about improving engineering education and encouraging women and other under-represented minorities to consider careers in engineering and aerospace. She has served on the Student Activities Committee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) as the Scholarship and Awards chair from 2015 – 2018, and has served on the Industrial Advisory Committee of her alma mater, LSU’s Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department, since 2020. She is also an alumna of the Challenger Learning Center.

In her free time, Dr. Guzzardo enjoys playing new and retro video games, bike riding, and exploring the beautiful countryside of the Pacific Northwest.

Teresa Drew is the Deputy Director of STEM Next Opportunity Fund. In this role, Teresa oversees and manages complex multi-stakeholder projects that build systems of support for STEM learning opportunities in all 50 states. She also manages STEM Next’s grantmaking portfolio.

Teresa is currently directing the Million Girls Moonshot, a transformative nationwide initiative from STEM Next that will re-imagine who can engineer, who can build and who can invent. This project, which applies her expertise in and personal passion for gender equity and prosperity, aims to close the gender gap in STEM over the next five years by providing opportunities for 1 million girls to become innovators and inventors.

Prior to joining STEM Next, Teresa was the co-founder of San Diego United Parents for Education, where she was active in education reform efforts – from local to federal, advocating and empowering the most under-engaged stakeholders in the education system. Teresa holds a California multiple-subject teaching credential and was the co-creator of a long-running early-childhood education program in San Diego. Teresa is a graduate of the University of San Diego’s Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management program.

Valerie Fitton-Kane is dedicated to building the next generation of innovators and explorers. After studying computer science and operations management, Valerie spent the first seven years of her career as an Information Technology consultant in a range of industries from finance to healthcare. In 2008, she shifted full-time to the nonprofit sector, leveraging her STEM skills to support international development, global health, and domestic poverty. At Oxfam GB, Valerie leveraged the organization’s information systems to connect the monetary and non-monetary contributions of British citizens to the life-saving work Oxfam does worldwide. At Sabin Vaccine Institute, she helped nations and non-governmental organizations to deliver life-changing medicines to the one billion poorest and most remotely located individuals on Earth. Finally, at LIFT, Valerie supported a data-driven approach to lifting people out of poverty for good.

Today, Valerie is deeply engaged in showing students the awe-inspiring opportunities available to them in STEM and how they can play a role in creating a better future for humanity. She does this primarily through her work at Challenger Center, a global education organization that develops technology used to immerse K-12 students in real-life STEM scenarios, enabling them to experience STEM careers through role-play. These powerful experiences, developed in partnership with experts at NASA, NOAA, and many private sector companies, have sparked a love of STEM in over six million students since 1986 and propelled many into exciting STEM careers. As the Vice President of Development, Partnerships, and Strategy, Valerie influences what programs are produced, how the impact is measured, and importantly, how the organization grows its reach from 250,000 students per year to millions of students per year.

In addition, Valerie is Board Chair at Capitol City Robotics, an education organization that uses robotics engineering and computer science to engage underrepresented students – especially girls and students of color – in STEM.

Valerie holds a Master of Business Administration from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, a Bachelor of Science in decision and information sciences from The University of Florida, and a certificate in nonprofit management from Northeastern University.