Trailblazing STEM Educator Award

Each year, Challenger Center and AIAA celebrate three K-12 educators who go above and beyond to inspire the next generation of explorers and innovators in science, technology, education, and math (STEM) through the Trailblazing STEM Educator Award.


  • $5,000 award to the educator

  • $5,000 award to the educator’s school or organization

  • All recipients must be or become an AIAA Educator Associate member

  • A trip to Washington, D.C. to be honored at the AIAA Awards Gala

  • Free access to Challenger Center’s STEM education programs

  • Opportunity to attend a future space launch experience

Nomination Requirements

  • Nominee must be a K-12 educator who brings real-world STEM experiences to students

  • Past recipients are ineligible for future consideration

  • All recipients must be or become an AIAA Educator Associate member

  • Preference will be given to teachers who demonstrate active use of AIAA and Challenger Center resources in their classroom

  • Self-nominations are not permitted

  • Nominator is not required to be a current AIAA member

  • Nominator may not serve as a reference

  • References are not required to be current AIAA members

  • One of two letters of endorsement must be provided by the principal of the nominee’s school or the educator's supervisor

  • Nominations must be submitted using the online database

2023 Awardees

Challenger Center and AIAA are proud to present Aymette Medina, Caroline Little, and Taylor Whisenant with the 2023 Trailblazing STEM Educator Award. The three winners come from schools across the United States and were selected from 51 nominations. The nominations demonstrate the incredible efforts teachers make every day to empower underserved and underrepresented students in STEM while using unique strategies, tools, and lessons in and out of the classroom to further energize students.

Aymette Medina

High School Teacher
Odyssey Academy Galveston; Galveston, Texas

As an educator for more than a decade, Medina’s mission is to give her students every opportunity to see their potential within STEM fields. Recently, she engaged her students in the NASA TechRise Challenge, International SeaPerch Space Exploration Challenge, and the SystemsGo Rocketry Program. She uses Challenger Center and AIAA educational materials throughout her lessons and takes students on field trips to connect their learning experiences within the classroom to the real world. Medina is a Space Foundation teacher liaison and an ambassador for both Space Explorers and SeaPerch (Robonation).

Caroline Little

6th-8th Grade Science Teacher
Visitation School; Mendota Heights, Minn.

Little has spent more than 20 years teaching science and world languages and is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of female scientists, engineers, and astronauts. She creatively breaks down complex STEM principles into easy-to-understand lessons and connects her students to real-world examples through personal experiences. For example, her students recently presented their research on lunar crop growth during a NASA Space Food webinar. Little is a Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Teacher Innovator Institute Fellow, DiscoverE Girl Day ambassador, and advisor for several national STEM-based educational programs.

Taylor Whisenant

K-12 STEAM Teacher
Athens Renaissance School; Athens, Ala.

With a background in special education, particularly in autism spectrum disorders, Whisenant is a champion for equity and access to quality STEM education programs for all students. During her first year at ARS, she developed a robotics program with eight FIRST® Robotics teams spanning the K-12 age groups. The program has grown to 14 teams now. Whisenant is a University of Alabama in Huntsville Alumni of Achievement Honoree and a FIRST® Inspire the Future Educators Recognition Program Honoree. She is also a program delivery partner for FIRST® LEGO® League.