Name: Carla Guzzardo

Profession: Mechanical Engineer, Lockheed Martin IS&GS

Previous Jobs in STEM Fields

Payload Technician – Atmospheric Physics Research Lab, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Graduate Research Assistant – Mechanical Engineering Department, Louisiana State University

When did you visit a Challenger Learning Center?

With my 6th grade class, I believe I was 12 years old.

What do you remember most from your experience?

I have very vivid memories of trying to manipulate pieces into place to assemble a probe. I remember the smocks those of us who were “onboard the Shuttle” wore, and how we had an emergency mid-mission and that we had to deal with. I also remember walking through the Mission Control room and being impressed with how realistic it looked with the headsets and computer stations. It was very exciting to me, and has always been one of my favorite memories from childhood. I got to pretend I was actually in space, doing space stuff! It was so much fun.

How did your experience at the Center play a part in your decision to take additional STEM related classes, pursue a STEM-related degree and/or follow a STEM career path?

I was already space-crazy at that point, but I didn’t really understand what the purpose of launching rockets and astronauts was, other than to go to space. The [Challenger Learning] Center trip showed me why, and I was fascinated. It definitely influenced my direction. I enjoyed the atmosphere of being part of a team and doing something momentous. I enjoyed the thrill of troubleshooting to fix problems and having to do it with only what we had with us in the spacecraft room.

What was it about the Challenger Learning Center experience that inspired you?

It was huge for me to be able to participate in something like that! My family was lower middle income, so we could not afford Space Camp. The Center brought this fun, inexpensive experience right to me. I felt like I mattered, that I could do that kind of job (science and engineering, though I didn’t have those words for it then), and I knew I would enjoy it.

In your opinion, why is STEM education so critical?

I think STEM is important because it teaches logical solution of problems, understanding of the physical world and how to manipulate it with tools, and how to communicate in a language that is universal (math).

What advice would you give to students who ARE interested in STEM subjects and want to pursue STEM-focused degrees and careers?

It doesn’t matter if you’re not that great at math or you don’t understand a subject the first time you see it. Keep trying, don’t give up, and do what you love. Ask a lot of questions. Anytime you don’t understand something, ask. There are plenty of people who have gone down this road before you and we are more than willing to help you out. Find someone doing the sort of job you want to do and ask them for an informational interview. You would be amazed at the twisted roads some of us have taken to get where we are, and how many times we didn’t think we could do it. One step at a time.

In one sentence, how would you describe your experience at the Challenger Learning Center?

Fantastic! It was a fun and inspiring experience that reinforced my passion for space, science, and engineering.