Tucson Girl Scout's project honored by NASA
Zoë Bentley's interest in planetary geology scores second in national contest
A local home-schooled 13-year-old member of the Sahuaro Girl Scouts has won second prize in a NASA-led contest designed to encourage teens to consider careers in science and technology.
In five weeks of effort, Zoë Bentley created an elaborate website called "Exogeology ROCKS!" explaining her interest in becoming a planetary geologist, a researcher who studies the geography, composition, and evolutionary processes in action on other worlds.
The site includes a YouTube video featuring an interview Bentley conducted with University of Arizona planetary astronomer Dr. Larry Lebofsky and a blog by a fictional exogeologist named Petra Stone, as well as a photo gallery and creative crossword puzzles and games.
Sponsored by NASA and USA Today, the "No Boundaries" contest aims to develop and grow a future national workforce for jobs related to science, technology, education and math.
As part of her runner-up award, Bentley will receive $1,000 and a special tour of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, this summer.
Lisa Bentley, Zoë's mother, said her daughter has been interested in both geology and astronomy since she was very young. "When she learned she could combine the two, she was thrilled," Lisa said in a congratulatory statement issued by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson).
"As a former Girl Scout myself, I am so proud to have this honor presented to Zoë, a girl from my hometown who was working on a Girl Scout project," Giffords said. "As a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, I know how critical it is to have young people—especially young girls—interested in science careers at an early age."
The Sahuaro Girl Scout Council's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Program matched its scouts with mentors from the University of Arizona to work on a "No Boundaries" project. Laura-Ann Chin, who is studying chemical engineering at the UA and is vice president of the campus chapters of the Society of Women Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, served as Zoë's mentor.
Students from Saddle Brook, NJ, won first prize in the 2010 contest for "a one-of-a-kind entry: an old-fashioned, black-and-white design portfolio consisting of 21 poster-size pages packed with photos and information about materials engineering," according to the project website at www.noboundaries-stemcareers.com.