This Oviedo High grad is reaching for the stars at NASA’s Mission Control
Growing up in Oviedo, Kadi Gashlin would gaze up into the night sky, hoping to spot a shooting star. She was fascinated by black holes and other deep mysteries of the universe. Little did she know that her childhood dream of a career in space would come true – at NASA’s Mission Control Center, no less.
But there were a few twists and turns along the way.
By the time she got to Oviedo High School, Kadi yearned to be a sculptor. She even applied to, and was accepted by, several art schools. In the end, though, her desire to study science and engineering won out.
Today Kadi, who is 23, is a flight controller at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. She’s so young and bright-eyed, in fact, Kadi admits she’s been mistaken for a visiting high schooler more than once.
She may be young, but Kadi says she’s been preparing for this job her whole life.
“Growing up not far from the Kennedy Space Center, my family and I were able to watch the rocket and shuttle launches from our front yard,” says Kadi. “I always looked forward to being able to see that bright fiery streak move across the sky.”
Before she was able to dive into the real science behind space flight, young Kadi used a more suitable medium to express her fascination with the cosmos: Legos.
“I wouldn’t let my family touch them,” she says of her Lego rockets and other elaborate spaceships. “They stayed built for months. I was too proud of them to have them taken down.”
At Oviedo High, Kadi dug her teeth into science and engineering classes.
A water-propelled rocket she created as a junior performed well, and it flew even higher when she revisited the project in her senior year.
“Seeing your creation take off and get lost in the sky can take your breath away and ground you in the moment,” Kadi says.
She went on to enter and win a variety of regional and national science/engineering competitions, and that “showed me engineering was something that I could do,” Kadi remembers. "I am extremely passionate about STEM education, and I think every child should get the opportunity to explore their interest in science, especially young girls."
Shortly before she graduated from UCF last year with a degree in aerospace engineering, Kadi was approached by a NASA recruiter. She was called for an interview the very next day. That led to another interview, after which she was asked to fly to Houston, all expenses paid, to talk to the people at Johnson Space Center.
This was no ordinary job interview. It was an intense, day-long process with multiple groups. The discussions involved highly technical topics like distributed electric propulsion and external thermal control.
Kadi could hardly sleep the night after the interview, but all those years of mastering Legos and water rockets – plus some intense study in high school and college – were about to pay off. She was preparing for a test back at UCF when she got the call. She was hired.
Kadi moved to Houston in January of this year to begin training as a flight controller – someone who helps ensure those in space maintain a safe working environment.
“I was nervous about moving halfway across the country to a new state, starting a new job, not knowing anyone there,” says Kadi. “However, my nerves were quickly overcome by excitement.”
Flight controllers play a critically important role at NASA, and Kadi says the job is perfect for her.
“I really wanted to be in a line of work that would make me feel like I was taking part in something bigger than myself,” she says. "At NASA, I’ve also been able to get involved in STEM education opportunities for high-school students, and I’m very excited about that."
While Kadi chose not to pursue art for a living, she has started drawing more and hopes to find a studio to start sculpting again. But, she explains, science and art are not such separate disciplines as some might think. After all, she says, every scientific concept and creation comes from a creative thought.
With a mind like Kadi’s, who knows what new discoveries await.
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