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.

7th Annual Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament – Great Day for STEM Scholarship Fundraiser

In its seventh year, the Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament, organized by Women In Defense Space Coast, delivered a fun filled day on the greens at Baytree National Golf Links while growing the STEM Scholarship Fund for Space Coast students.

Over 60 golfers embarked on foggy greens to tee off at 7:30 am, but the skies cleared for a beautiful finish to the day which included lunch, drinks, goodie bags, and awards at the Baytree Clubhouse. First, second, third and last place golf teams received top prizes. Additional contests for longest drive and closest to the pin awards were acknowledged for both men and women golfers. Other prizes included items for winning raffle tickets plus a 50/50 drawing.

“Last year, we awarded $16,000 in scholarships, most of which was raised at the golf tournament,” stated WIDSC President Elizabeth Huy. “This event enables us to share our mission and connect with the community while raising funds, and being held on Military Spouse Appreciation Day and during May’s National Military Appreciation Month, we celebrated the many military spouses and veterans that joined the tournament.”

This year’s golf event sponsors included 8-koi, Acuity International, All Points, Alluvionic, AVET Project Inc., Cloud 9 Real Estate Group, Coldwell Banker Paradise – Steven Natschke, CRI, Desapro, Elizabeth Brienza for Nana’s House, Erdman Motors, Frazier Engineering, Geiger/Your Logo.com, Hedrick Brothers Construction, Indigo Strategic Consulting, KBR, Kegman Inc., Keyes Coverage, Merrill Lynch, Professional Specialty Insurance LLC, Rolle IT, SCIS, Turtle, and WhiteBird Attorneys at Law.

WIDSC members, supporters, and volunteers also helped to make this year’s event a huge success, including Allegra Printing, Baytree National Golf Links, and Courtyard Marriott Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach.

On Thursday, June 20, STEM scholarship awards will be presented to selected female students in Brevard County at the Courtyard Marriott in Cocoa Beach. Scheduled to speak at this year’s awards event is Jackie Rodriguez-Valdes, Chief Executive Officer at Summit Healthcare Services. STEM scholarship awards event registration will open on May 17.

If you would like more information about WIDSC programs and fundraising for STEM scholarships, please contact Elizabeth Huy by emailing President@WIDSC.org. 


Applications for STEM Scholarships NOW OPEN – Deadline 25 APRIL