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NASA Ambassador

UMKC Senior Ayanna Johnson is all about research and STEM.

University of Missouri-Kansas City senior Ayanna Johnson has been named a student ambassador to the  National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Johnson, a Liberal Arts major with minors in Psychology, Communications Studies and an emphasis in math education at UMKC, served as an intern last summer at NASA. In a field of 485 interns selected from 6,000 college applicants, she was one of 105 of her peers selected to be an ambassador. Clearly, the math part of STEM education — the mission of the NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community — is working out in her favor.

“We’re starting with early learning strategies to get people interested in majoring in science, engineering, mathematics and technology fields,” Johnson said. “We want third graders building NASA satellites out of Lego bricks in classrooms.”

Why? Because universities spend a lot of money to recruit STEM-field students overseas, said Johnson. And they shouldn’t have to because there is plenty of talent here.

Johnson, grew up in Kansas City and graduated from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Always a math whiz, she planned on becoming a math teacher. But NASA changed all of that.

“Now I’m all about research,” said Johnson, whose NASA internship was at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, where she worked in the systems engineering and technical development education department. “I like to take a problem and figure out the answer. I’m usually the last in the lab because I just want to keep reading and learning more and more.”