NAMPA — Tylar Hedrick, a 14-year-old who grew up watching the Science Channel, is now giving advice to the country’s top scientists as the president’s new Kid Science Advisor.
Tylar was in Washington, D.C., this month to meet with five White House senior officials in the West Wing. She gave a three-minute presentation about her idea that schools need more hands-on learning opportunities and competitions for students.
She wants students to utilize science and technology to solve the challenges both in local communities and at the national scale by using the competitive spirit to inspire new ideas, similar to the FabSLAM digital fabrication competition in which she participated earlier this year. Tylar expressed that her generation has the opportunity and responsibility to inspire changes that will improve lives.
“Amazing innovations could come of it,” said the Skyview High freshman. “Students would be solving real world problems using STEM while competing.”
Tylar joined 10 other students from across the nation who participated in the new Kid Science Advisor program, which aims to promote the president’s administration goal of improving STEM instruction in schools.
“I was thrown off guard when I got a text saying I was invited to the White House,” Tylar said. “I only had a three-day notice.”
The Idaho STEM Action Center received an email from the White House asking to find a student from Idaho to be an advisor. Erica Compton, the program manager for the STEM Action Center, reached out to Lone Star Middle School teacher Aaron Moiso.
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“I had only a few hours to figure out a student to send,” said Moiso, Tylar’s engineering teacher last year. “Tylar was available and participated in the National Maker Faire in the spring. I knew she would be a good fit.”
But her invitation to the White House was denied because staffers processed all the students and wasn’t able to take Tylar.
“Suddenly I was told I couldn’t go,” Tylar said.
Her mom, Christy Stansell, took action and called U.S. Rep Raul Labrador’s office. His staff contacted the White House and got Tylar back on the invite list.
When Tylar arrived to the White House, she was taken to a conference room to practice her presentation. While she was reviewing her notes, President Obama opened the door to say hello.
“I was in shock,” Tylar said. “He shook my hand and asked where I was from.”
During Tylar’s presentation, she met with Charles Bolden, director of NASA; twin brothers Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly, both astronauts; the director of the National Science Foundation, France Cordova; and the director of the president’s office of science and technology policy, John Holdren. While meeting President Obama was the highlight, Tylar’s other biggest thrill was meeting Bolden. She wants to be the director of NASA.
“I find space very interesting, especially traveling to Mars,” Tylar said. “I want to be an aerospace engineer for NASA.”
STEM first sparked an interested in elementary school for Tylar. She met her idol Barbara Morgan, a former astronaut and public school teacher. She is already thinking about college and dreams of getting into Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study engineering.
It’s unknown if Tylar will return to the White House as a Kid Science Advisor with a new administration taking office.
Other students who had a chance to give presentations were from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio.