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Reach For The Stars STEM Festival

Shannon Walker in the ISS Cupola

Sept 30, 2023 was our 15th Festival since the first in 2006 with Sally Ride as speaker. This year had Dr. Shannon Walker as our Keynote Speaker. Shannon holds three degrees in Space Science from Rice University (BS, MS and PhD), and was the first woman to fly to the ISS on the Dragon as part of "Crew 1" (check out her amazing photos).

Reach For The Stars STEM Festival poster

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Info about the festival

Middle school girls are invited to join us for a fun day of exciting hands-on activities and meet some amazing role models!

Each girl (or group of girls) must have an adult chaperone - a teacher or a parent or designate. Each adult can bring up to 10 girls. Instead of choosing individual workshops, each girl (or group of girls) will choose an "interest track" and will get two hands-on workshops and a job panel discussion related to that track, plus the keynote and time in the exhibit area. If, for example, 6 girls want one track and 4 girls want a different track, then there needs to be two chaperones (one for each group).

There is a modest registration fee to cover lunch; however, if any girl needs financial support, the chaperone/teacher should contact starfest@rice.edu; because of our amazing financial supporters, we can offer scholarships to deserving girls.

Here are the interest tracks the girls can choose from (2023 Festival list shown as example):

  • B: MEDICINE (including space medicine and Bioscience)

If you would like to be a presenter, volunteer, exhibitor or financial contributor, send an email to starfest@rice.edu. We are especially grateful to our financial sponsors. In 2023 our supporters were Cheniere, R-STEM, Rice Physics & Astronomy, Rice Space Institute, Wiess School of Natural Sciences, Rice Prof. Neal Lane, NASA and Discovery Dome. We would love more sponsors in the future!

History of our Festivals

Since middle school is the age where girls typically lose interest in science, Sally Ride asked us to work with her to create festivals to excite and inspire them. The result was that in 2006, Rice University began hosting the annual Sally Ride Science Festival. Sally Ride herself was the first speaker and often hailed the Rice event as the largest and best attended of her festivals. Each annual Festival includes a street fair, an inspiring talk by a woman astronaut, and roughly thirty women-led science and engineering workshops (each student attends two).

Starting in 2016, the Festival was renamed the "Reach for the Stars! STEM Festival", and is sponsored by the Ride Family Foundation and Rice Space Institute, with major funding from Cheniere, plus many other donors.