Women In Defense Space Coast Names 2024 STEM Education Innovator Award Recipients and Awards $17K in STEM Scholarships to Space Coast Students

The Women in Defense Space Coast Chapter (WIDSC) recently announced the winners of its 2024 STEM Education Innovator Awards and the recipients of its 2024 STEM scholarships on Thursday, June 20, at the Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach. These accolades underscore WID’s commitment to foster STEM educational opportunities and careers and to promote the role of women in national defense and security.

The Education Innovator Award recipients included:

Dr. Theresa E. Watson, Deputy Chief Scientist of the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) at Patrick Space Force Base, as the STEM Leadership Star of the Year for serving as champion for the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) conference – a two-day event where local students take part in STEM activities and learn about STEM opportunities.
Chris Larsen, co-founder of Larsen Motorsports, as the STEM Mentor of the Year for turning a passion for high-speed racing into a unique and powerful educational platform while mentoring over 250 students during the past 20 years.
Colleen Anderson, Surfside Elementary, as the STEM Elementary Educator of the Year for her dynamic teaching methods and her role in coordinating science fairs that connect students with STEM professionals.
Rebecca Allen, Palm Bay Magnet High School, as the STEM High School Educator of the Year for her dedication to expanding student access to industry expertise and resources.

In addition to recognizing these distinguished educators and leaders, WIDSC awarded $17K in scholarships ranging from $1250 to $500 for exemplary students pursuing STEM disciplines.

The scholarship winners included:

Abigail Shephard, Florida Atlantic University, BS/MD Cellular Neuroscience/Mathematics
Aki Densmore, Florida Tech, Chemical Engineering, Minor in Aerospace
Alexa Mason, Florida Tech, Physics
Ann Hough, University of Florida, Pharmacy
Cassandra Stanish, Florida Tech, Mechanical Engineering, Minor in Sustainability
Christina Souvannala, University of Illinois, Master of Library/Information Science
Deztynee Bryan, Florida Tech, Meteorology
Elizabeth Eskildsen, Eastern Florida State College, Business Sustainability, Minor -Environmental Science
Ella Benson, Virginia Tech, Architecture
Emily Prins, University of Florida, Biochemistry
Erin Kohler, University of Florida, Microbiology and Cell Science
Gianna Fernandez, University of Florida, Computer Engineering
Grace Peters, University of Florida, Mechanical Engineering
Jayda Holman, University of Miami, Environmental Engineering
Jody Junek, University of Florida, Biomedical Engineering
Katherine Wade, Florida Tech, Ocean Engineering
Kathryn Burgess, Florida State University, Nursing, Minor in Business
Lillian Paquette, University of Florida, Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering
Madeline Biggs, Florida State University, Mechanical Engineering, Minor in Computer Science
Mallory Jeancake, Samford University, Nursing
Marisa Ricks, University of Florida, Preprofessional Biology, Minor Org. Leadership
Ryleigh Renedina, University of Florida, Biomedical Engineering. Minor in Animal Science

WIDSC also announced the recipient of the 2024 joint WIDSC – AFTAC WiSE scholarship.

Melissa McGuire, Rollins College, Executive MBA

Elizabeth Huy, President of the Space Coast Women in Defense, commented, “This year’s awards and scholarships highlight the incredible talent and dedication within our community. Our goal is not only to recognize excellence but also to inspire the next generation of women to explore STEM fields and consider careers in national defense. ”

Since its inception in 2013, WIDSC has awarded $94,000 in scholarships to women in the community who have pursued studies to advance their careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

If you would like more information about WIDSC STEM scholarships and awards, please contact Leslie Tibbetts at STEM@WIDSC.org or 321-258-8504.

Download the press release.

-PHOTOS- 10th Anniversary Celebration and STEM Innovator Awards – February 2, 2023

10th Anniversary Celebration Raises Over $10K for Scholarships and Honors STEM Leaders

The Space Coast Chapter of Women In Defense (WIDSC) celebrated its tenth anniversary on Thursday, February 2nd at the newly renovated L3 Harris Global Innovation Center in Melbourne where over $10K was raised for STEM Scholarships and the annual STEM Education Innovator Awards were presented. Susie Glasgow, CEO of Kegman Inc, was also given special recognition as one of the longest-serving officers.

L3Harris generously sponsored the venue and refreshments while the event’s Gold Sponsors included Cromulence, Kegman, and SCIS. Indigo Consulting was Silver Sponsor, and Reception Sponsors included AVET Appeals, Florida Association of Veteran-Owned Businesses, and Rock Paper Simple. The Raffle Sponsor was Progressive Specialty Insurance.

WIDSC Past President and long-term member Sandy Pfrimmer served as the event emcee and Elizabeth Kreft Brienza, Vice President of L3Harris Communications, gave a welcome to the group that included an overview of the high-tech facility. Eighty guests attended the interactive event where Elaine Larsen from Larsen Motorsports was presented with the chapter’s STEM Mentor of the Year Award and Erin Rice, a teacher from Audubon and Tropical Elementary Schools, was named the STEM Educator of the Year. The STEM Leadership Star Award was given to Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, PhD who was the special guest speaker.

Photo caption (l-r): David Jackson, Leslie Tibbetts, Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, Elaine Larsen, Erin Rice, Sandy Pfrimmer, Tim Thomas

“We had some exceptional award nominees this year,” says Leslie Tibbetts, WIDSC’s Director of Awards and Recognition. “Elaine started an educational outreach program called Blazing Trails to help K-12 students get excited about STEAM education. Erin provides hands-on STEM learning opportunities for elementary students to compete in the annual Innovation Games. Dr. Diana travels throughout the nation and world conducting science and STEM professional staff development and Family Science events. It’s a real privilege to elevate these women and turn a spotlight on their very important work to encourage girls and women in the STEM fields.”

Dr. Diana’s keynote included an interactive component where guests were asked to manipulate unfamiliar objects and engage in a query-based activity. Retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer Pastor Troy Stanley from First Christian Church of Cocoa Beach lead the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. He was followed by US Army Veteran Lieutenant Colonel Tim Thomas, who is a Melbourne District 1 Council Member and leads the Viera JROTC, who conducted the installation of WIDSC’s 2022-23 Chapter Officers. The newest board members to be installed were Sirena Hendrickson from Atrax Technologies as Secretary, and Kim Cone from AVET Appeals as Historian.

Photo caption: Guests participated in hands-on inquiry during Dr. Diana’s presentation

Photo caption (l-r): David Jackson, Tim Thomas, Gail Hart, Sirena Hendrickson, Elizabeth Huy (courtesy of Adrienne Baughman)

Long-time WIDSC member and Director of Membership David Jackson, Director of Community Relations for U.S. Representative Bill Posey (FL-8), provided celebratory remarks to include such notable achievements for the chapter as organizing nearly 100 professional development and community events around the Space Coast at which notable speakers have included Astronaut Winston Scott, Congressman Bill Posey, and NASA Administrator Janet Petro among others. The chapter has supported Brevard Public Schools Science and Engineering Fairs over the years with judges and prizes, as well as leant support to AFTAC’s Women in Science and Engineering Symposium (WiSE) which is now in its 9th year. On Tuesday, January 24th, the Honorable Rita Pritchett, Chair of the Brevard County Commission from District 1, presented the County Resolution for WIDSC’s 10th Anniversary.

Photo caption (front l-r): David Jackson, Elizabeth Huy, County Commissioner Rita Pritchett, Inga Young, Leslie Tibbetts, Sirena Hendrickson, Kim Cone (rear l-r) Frank Abbate, Rob Feltner

WIDSC was founded on January 21, 2013, and shortly thereafter, Susie Glasgow spearheaded the creation of the group’s STEM Scholarship Fund which has cumulatively awarded over $75K in cash scholarships. The non-restricted scholarships are based on merit and are awarded annually to help further the education of Space Coast women who are pursuing careers that support the national defense and security industry. At the anniversary event, guests bid on silent auction packages donated by businesses and supporters from around Brevard County. In total, over $10K was raised to include the silent auction that will directly fund scholarships to be awarded on June 15th to selected applicants. April 23rd is the deadline for applications that can be found at SCWID.org.

Other WIDSC board members present at the event were Vice President Elizabeth Huy of Alluvionic, Director of Communications Gail Hart of Caliburn International, and Treasurer Kathy Emerson from Kathy Emerson CPA.

“Women In Defense has made an indelible mark on the Space Coast business community,” says WIDSC President Inga Young of 8-koi. “Being able to help the chapter celebrate its achievements over the past ten years is an enormous honor. The real power of this organization is the commitment that its volunteer leaders make to delivering engaging community programs and supporting continuing education for women in the defense industry. I hope to see the next generation of leaders step up to carry on this legacy for another ten years.”

Membership is open to all people looking to support the mission of advancing the role of women in national defense. Government employees are invited to join at no cost while others can join for a $40 annual fee. Women In Defense is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) and offers reciprocal benefits to include access to the NDIA Mega Directory, Career Center, conferences and training events, business development resources, and other awards and scholarship programs.

The Call for Nominations for the local chapter board is made in the fall, but a special election can be held to fill open positions such as the current Director of Programs. Nominees must be a member of WIDSC in good standing for at least one year prior to their election. Each year, select members of the WIDSC board travel to Washington DC to attend the Women In Defense National Conference where they speak on behalf of the membership and represent the interests of the local Space Coast community. Prospective members are encouraged to visit SCWID.org for more information and reach out to Director of Membership David Jackson to sign up or volunteer for a committee.

The next WIDSC event is the 6th Annual Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament at Baytree National which raises additional funds for STEM scholarships, provides sponsors an opportunity for wide area visibility in the community, and players and volunteers a chance to network and cultivate relationships for business development and career advancement. President Inga Young is the point of contact for the golf tournament.

See more photos.

10th Anniversary Celebration – RESCHEDULED February 2, 2023

Registration NOW OPEN!


Women In Defense is celebrating ten years on the Space Coast! Join us on Thursday, February 2nd, 2023, to celebrate this milestone and honor our 2023 STEM Education Innovator Award winners. This will be a great professional networking opportunity to meet other members old and new. Active-duty military and students are encouraged to attend. Light refreshments will be served. Become an event sponsor!











Beachside Grand Prix
Bizzarro’s Satellite Beach
Bonefish Grill
Bowlero Bowling Alley
Buffalo Wild Wings
Cloud9 Real Estate
Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach
E&O Tactical
El Chico
Frazier Engineering
Golf N Gator
Grills Seafood
Hampton Inn by Hilton Cocoa Beach
Hemingway’s Tavern
Kennedy Space Center
Kneaded Oasis
Longhorn Steakhouse
Maxwell C. King Center
Melting Pot
Nails by Dina
ProRider Cocoa
Rising Tides
Salon Luz
Sola Salon
Suntree Country Club
Tuscany Grill
Urban Air
Walk On’s Sport Bistreaux
Zonta Club of Melbourne


-PHOTOS- 2022 STEM Education Innovators & Scholarship Awards – June 21, 2022

Women In Defense Space Coast Awards $15K in STEM Scholarships and Recognizes STEM Education Mentor and Business of the Year

With contribution by Emria “Vailit” Casey

At the awards reception held at Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach on June 21st, Women In Defense Space Coast (WIDSC) gave out $15,000 to women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Twelve aspiring college students received anywhere between $500-$1,500 to go towards their education.

WIDSC has awarded over $60,000 since 2013 and gave out the highest amount of scholarship money in 2022 to these high achievers thanks to the generosity of over forty sponsors and donors. The 2022 scholarship recipients are Phoenix Boggs, Mckenna Caban, Eilish Fuller, Haley Gemmell, Nuha Haque, Alexis Linder, Taylor Redina, Brenna Row, Alexandra Rowe, Sydney Sharp, Kiera Sullivan, and Katherine Wade.

WIDSC STEM Scholarship recipients with WIDSC Chapter President Inga Young (far right)

WIDSC also presented the STEM Education Innovators Awards to include Janielle Ziegler who was awarded “STEM Mentor of the Year” for her volunteer work as a mentor with the Melbourne High School Robotics team. Janielle is at the school nearly seven days a week mentoring the students and has dedicated a lot of time to helping young teens and adults looking to build a career in STEM.

Janielle Ziegler receiving her WIDSC STEM Mentor of the Year award alongside her guests and WIDSC Board Member Susie Glasgow (far right)

Not present at the event was the WIDSC “Business Innovator of the Year” Awardee Michelle Peters of Zero-G.

The guest speaker for the event was Carol Taeker-Sluzky. Carol is the director of STARBASE Academy at Patrick Space Force Base. She shared her background and her own journey of her career in STEM career to include her work helping others grow into their own.

Alexandra Rowe, a scholarship recipient studying Aviation Human Factors at Florida Tech says, “I’m so excited, and so grateful!” Alex is the youngest student and only female in her aviation group.

STEM Scholarship Recipient Alexandra Rowe, holding up her $1,500 check from WIDSC

See more about the scholarships at https://widsc.org/scholarships/. If you would like more information about WIDSC programs and fundraising for STEM scholarships, please contact Susan Glasgow at 321-614-5930 or sponsorships@scwid.org.