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| January 2024 |
The Montana Learning Center announces it’s first Scholar for the 2024 year – Aika Lanes
The Montana Learning Center is pleased to announce 2024 MLC Scholar, Aika Lanes, a high school junior from Bozeman, Mont. Lanes has been attending MLC camps and outreach events since middle school, when she met executive director Ryan Hannahoe at the MT Tech Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Butte. Her award-winning experiment, “The Martian Garden,” examined plant growth in simulated Martian soil, and caught Hannahoe’s eye. He encouraged her to sign up for camp at the MLC, and she promptly enrolled in a Lego robotics session. Since then, her passion for STEM fields has flourished, and she continuously advocates for other girls and minorities to pursue STEM fields.
Lanes founded and directs STEAM Ready, an outreach program to connect teachers and students, particularly in rural areas, with broader educational resources. The student-led group offers online Q&A sessions with professionals in different STEM fields and careers, and builds platforms for teachers to share free lesson plans. The group develops science activities for things like National Tree Week, which focuses on lessons pertaining to trees’ importance in our ecosystem, or having students build a robotic hand using straws and string, to learn about how tendons work.
She is an active participant in Million Girls Moonshot, an initiative to recruit girls into after-school STEM programs. The initial goal was to include one million girls by 2025, but with a current membership of 1.5 million, they have long since surpassed that goal, and aren’t slowing down. Million Girls Moonshot is led by its Flight Crew, with leaders selected from each state, and Lanes was the first student accepted from Montana. “It’s a great community of other girls in STEM, and it’s an amazing organization to be a part of,” Lanes said.
As one of the top three graduates of the Montana Aerospace Scholars, or MAS, Lanes was chosen for an all-expenses paid trip to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as part of an ongoing partnership with the Montana Learning Center. “The trip was amazing, and we could see what kind of research and activities they do there; it’s definitely one of my top options for college applications next year,” she said.
Her MAS experience was life changing. “Montana Aerospace Scholars ultimately made me know that I want to go into engineering, and it helped solidify my fascination with space. It confirmed my interest in bioastronautics, which involves life support systems. On the International Space Station, it includes space suits, water recovery programs, and things of that nature.”
“The Montana Learning Center has meant so much to me,” Lanes said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity. It makes STEM and learning so much more fun and engaging. School puts you through the textbook experience, but being able to go to MLC offers a lot of different opportunities to actually engage with the material and connect with learning. It fuels your curiosity. There’s just a great community of people through MLC who are there to support you as you chase your dreams.”
The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake offers youth summer camps in a variety of STEM fields, teacher learning opportunities, and the region’s premier astronomy program, featuring the largest public-use telescope in Montana. Montana Learning Center and Montana State University partner to facilitate NASA’s Northwest Earth & Space Science Pathways program in Montana, an outreach effort to strengthen aerospace education and outreach. The Center boasts a picturesque lakeside setting, which is ideal for exploring Montana’s geology and night sky.