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.

Women In Defense Space Coast Awarded $16K in STEM Scholarships to Space Coast Students on June 15th in Cocoa Beach

A total of $16,000 in STEM scholarships was awarded to twenty-one Brevard County students on Thursday, June 15th at the Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach. The event featured Krista Dawson, PMP, Executive Director of Engineering Services for Axient, as guest speaker.

The 2023-24 WIDSC STEM Scholarships varied from $325 to $1,000 in unrestricted cash awards for exceptional Brevard County women seeking to further their education in STEM studies who’ve demonstrated an interest in starting and furthering a career that supports the national defense industrial base. Awards are based on academic achievement, field of study, work experience, statements of interest, and recommendations. Applications for 2023 awards closed April 23rd.

“We had an overwhelming response for scholarships this year,” says WIDSC STEM Chair Leslie Tibbetts of Community Credit Union. “It’s an honor to lend support to students in our local community and help to build a more diverse and stable workforce on the Space Coast.”

The recipients are as follows:

  • Emma Aiken, Palm Bay, Forensic Science at University of Florida
  • Ashleigh Antaloci, Palm Bay, Nursing at Eastern Florida State College
  • Willow Ash, Merritt Island, Biology at University of Central Florida
  • Deztynee Bryan, Melbourne, Meteorology at Florida Tech
  • Elizabeth Eskildsen, Cocoa, Business Management at Eastern Florida State College
  • Gianna Fernandez, Rockledge, Computer Science & STEM at University of Florida
  • Nuha Haque, Melbourne, Behavioral-Cognitive Neuroscience at University of Florida
  • Emma Havel, Melbourne, Actuarial Science at University of Central Florida
  • Kayla Havel, Melbourne, Baccalaureate at New College of Florida
  • Lydia Hinkle, Melbourne, Education at Florida Atlantic University
  • Alexis Linder, Rockledge, Mechanical Engineering at Florida Tech
  • Lena Martinez, Palm Bay, Health Sciences at University of Central Florida
  • Amira McKaige, Titusville, Computer Engineering & International Affairs at Florida State University
  • Chloe Nason, Mims, Sports Management at Eastern Florida State College
  • Taylor Rendina, Titusville, Health Sciences at University of Bridgeport
  • Marisa Ricks, Cocoa Beach, Biology at University of Florida
  • Josette Roach, Melbourne, Organizational Management at Eastern Florida State College
  • Victoria Scabarozi, Cocoa, Associate of Arts at Eastern Florida State College
  • Abigail Shepard, Indian Harbour Beach, Neuroscience & Interdisciplinary Mathematics at Florida Atlantic University
  • Christina Souvannala, Patrick AFB, Library & Information Science at University of Illinois Ubrana-Champaign
  • Paulina Tawrel, Melbourne, Environmental Engineering at University of Florida

WIDSC established the Space Coast STEM Scholarship Fund in 2013 to encourage women in Florida to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related to the national security and defense interests of the United States. Since its inception, WlDSC has now awarded over $90,000 in scholarships and contributed to numerous STEM-related events in partnership with local businesses, non-profits, and Federal agencies such as Patrick Space Force Base.

Event guests were invited to bid on an array of silent auction items generously donated by local businesses to include ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Buds & Bows Floral Design, Chick-fil-A, Costco, Cloud 9 Real Estate Group, Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach, Etc. Shoppe, Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach, Mister Car Wash, Pint & Pistol, Suntree Country Club, to name a few. A full list of sponsors and donors supporting the WIDSC STEM Scholarship Fund can be found here.

Fundraising efforts are conducted throughout the year to include sponsored events such as the most recent 6th Annual Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament held at Baytree on May 19th and the Tenth Anniversary Celebration held at L3 Harris in January. Donations are accepted year-round.

Networking and professional development events are organized to help connect individuals and local companies to opportunities for workforce and business development. WIDSC currently has over 100 members. Details for upcoming events can be found here.

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

See more event photos.

6th Annual Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament Raises $10K for STEM Scholarships

Sold out sponsorships provided hospitality for enthusiastic golfers on the greens at Baytree National Golf Links on Friday, May 19th for Women In Defense Space Coast’s 6th Annual Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament. The event raises funds for STEM scholarships that will be awarded to Space Coast students on June 15th.


The event was organized by WIDSC volunteers with 15 people giving their time to work throughout the day to keep the golfers happy and hydrated, and the action moving smoothly. A total of $10K was raised from sponsorships, entry fees, mulligan packages, and raffles.

“We are very pleased with the turnout and level of support the community showed to our golf tournament this year,” stated WIDSC Chapter President Inga Young of 8-koi, “Our volunteer board works hard all year long to develop and deliver value-added programming to our membership.  Raising money to award STEM scholarships is very meaningful and just one way our organization can contribute to creating a more diverse and stable workforce on the Space Coast.”

The tournament’s first place team was Robbie Blubaugh, Reid Hart, Ryan Holloway, and Jacob Vetter. The second-place team was Mark Klenck, Steve Lindsley, Danny Renfro, and Bob White. The last place fun prize went to Craig Berry, Wayne Grimes, and Bob Pine.

Advanced Management Group, Kegman, and SCIS provided Gold Sponsorships, and Unified Solutions was the Silver Sponsor. The Bloody Mary & Mimosa Bar was sponsored by WhiteBird Law, Lunch was sponsored by Cole Engineering, and Leonardo DRS was the Coffee Sponsor. Tee Box Sponsors were 8-koi, Acuity International, Alluvionic, AVET Appeals, Cloud 9 Real Estate Group, Coldwell Banker Paradise, Frazier Engineering, Hedrick Brothers Construction, and Professional Specialty Insurance LLC.  Longest Drive Sponsors were Poseidon and UES. Geiger YourLogo.com and Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida sponsored Closest to the Pin. Other event support was provided by Allegra, Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach, Gillespie Services, Intracoastal Brewing Company, Moon Golf, Rockledge Country Club, Target, and WaWa.

The 2023 STEM Scholarship Awards Ceremony for students on June 15th will be held at the Courtyard Cocoa Beach. Krista Dawson, PMP, Executive Director of Engineering Services for Axient, will be the featured speaker, and guests will be invited to bid on a selection of silent auction items to kick off the 2024 scholarship fund. See more information and register to attend.

Next year’s tourney will be held on Friday, May 10th, 2024.

WIDSC Featured on WFIT’s ‘Coastal Connection’

On March 27th, WFIT aired an interview with host Terri Wright and WIDSC Communications Director Gail Hart on the Coastal Connection program.

Produced by WFIT’s General Manager, Terri Wright, Coastal Connection serves as a spotlight on the community. Each 5- min edition of Coastal Connection showcases a special event and/or not-for-profit organization in Brevard County, Florida. Read more at WFIT.org.

Terri and Gail talked about the mission of Women In Defense Space Coast and about the upcoming Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament on May 19th that will raise money for STEM scholarships. WIDSC supports the advancement and recognition of women in national security by providing networking, education, and career development opportunities.

Since 2013, WIDSC has given over $75,000 in scholarships to female Space Coast students who are pursuing STEM studies with an interest in national defense and security careers. The 2023 scholarship awards will be presented on June 15th in Cocoa Beach. The deadline for scholarship applications is April 23rd.

Registration for the golf event is open to the first 100. Players can join the game for $85 to include lunch and cart. There will be prizes and contests on the greens. Event sponsorships are available.

To hear the full WFIT Coastal Connection interview, visit https://www.wfit.org/podcast/coastal-connection/2023-03-27/women-in-defense-space-coast-offers-scholarship-to-women-in-stem-and-hosts-a-fundraiser-golf-tournament.

WIDSC Virtual Networking Group Open on LinkedIn

As an added benefit to the local Space Coast community, WIDSC relaunched a virtual networking group on LinkedIn for professionals and students supporting the national security and defense industry.

This group is open to all who support the Space Coast’s military service members, partnerships within the local contractor community, and related career studies in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math that benefit the defense industry. You do not need to be a WID member to contribute here, but we hope you would consider.

>>JOIN on LinkedIn NOW<<

Group members are welcome to share their industry news, events, and resources that pertain to developing a more diverse and stable workforce in Brevard County through STEM education and professional development.

Members of the WIDSC Virtual Networking Group on LinkedIn are encouraged to invite their connections and start conversations about hiring fairs, resumes and interview tips, other networking groups and industry associations, business development opportunities, student skills development, local STEM activities and the like.

WIDSC proudly supports active-duty military and welcomes relevant job postings and volunteer opportunities. This group is NOT the place to discuss politics to enter negative comments.

Questions about the group can be directed to Inga Young, WIDSC President, or Gail Hart, WIDSC Director of Communications.

Women In Defense (WID) is a national security organization that cultivates and supports the advancement and recognition of women in all aspects of national security. WID was established to provide women a formal environment for professional growth through networking, education, and career development.

Women In Defense is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), which represents all facets of the defense and technology industrial base and serves all military services. This affiliation gives WID members a source for defense industry information, increased networking opportunities and professional contacts, and an expanded scope of informative programs.