Rhiannon Thomas wants to become New Zealand’s first woman to launch a rocket into space.
The 14-year-old Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil has big dreams to become the third woman in the world to achieve the feat, but said she would not be upset if someone else beat her to it.
“Only two [women] have done it before and it’s all happened recently. It just shows not enough women are going into rocket science and engineering.”
On Sunday, Rhiannon is speaking about why this might be the case as a panellist for the touring exhibition 100 Women, 100 Words .. Infinite Possibilities at Oamaru’s Forrester Gallery.
Though Rhiannon had received support for her future goals, she had discovered lot of girls her age were not interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [Stem].
“Part of that might be because they haven’t really been introduced to it properly before high school, or maybe they haven’t had a positive or supportive introduction to science.
“A lot of people think its boring, but it’s not, because it’s everything.
“Kids start asking big questions about space and animals when they are quite young, and I think some people lose that love of learning quite young and don’t get it back.”
She got involved with maths and science at Totara School and was one of the founding members of its first Stem group.
“We had a lot of support in doing science and maths. It did help set me up for high school.”
For teenage girls, there was a real stigma around being smart and working hard at school, she said.
But Rhiannon did not care if being good at science or maths made her uncool.
She was very excited when she got the call-up to speak on the panel.
“It’s pretty cool to be called inspiring,” she said.
She will be speaking alongside Waitaki Girls’ pupil Phoebe Wang, Waitaki Whitestone Geopark geologist and educator Sasha Morriss and Prof Madhri Kumari, of the University of Otago.
100 Women, 100 Words … Infinite Possibilities project co-ordinator Jessa Barder said she wanted to challenge the way people looked at women and Stem.
The photography exhibition, which is at the Forrester Gallery until June 8, showcases 100 women and girls who are in the world of Stem.
For Barder, the display was not just about providing role models for little girls, but little boys too.
“Women can be role models for everybody.
“They are curious, they’re creative, they’re dynamic, and they’re interesting.”
Not only did Barder want to challenge the unconscious biases about who or what a scientist or engineer looked like, she also wanted to showcase the different paths people could take to get there.
Barder has a bachelor’s degree in history and politics, and is the Otago Museum’s senior science engagement co-ordinator.
She wanted young women to know that they did not have to have their life mapped out, or be an A+ student.
“There is no one right way to engage with the Stem fields and that’s reflected by those100 women.”
100 Women, 100 Words … Infinite Possibilities panel discussion is being held at the Forrester Gallery at 1pm on May 30.