Tyler Looby recently learned something “very cool” about Buzz Aldrin.
The Athens Drive junior got to hear Aldrin, a space pioneer, speak at the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, near Boston, in June.
Was it that Aldrin was the second person to walk on the moon or perhaps that he piloted the lunar module for the Apollo 11 mission that piqued Tyler’s interest?
No. Aldrin connected to the younger generation in a different way.
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“He took a selfie in space,” Tyler said. “I thought that was hilarious. He took the camera, turned it around and took a selfie. Everybody was laughing. He was pretty cool.”
Tyler, 16, was invited to the three-day conference, which is “an honors-only program for high school students who are passionate about science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The purpose of the event is to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country who aspire to be scientists and technologists,” according the conference’s website.
Invitation is by academic nomination, and students must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average.
Tyler has a weighted GPA of 4.3125. He averaged 99 percent on the overall mathematics section of the ACT, which he took as a sophomore. He scored 100 percent in the algebra section and 98 percent in geometry.
He’s hoping his hard work – along with what he learned at the conference — will help him continue on the STEM path.
“I’m looking toward engineering, mechanical or electrical,” Tyler said. “I want to attend N.C. State or possibly Virginia Tech.”
Inspiration from a conference
Aldrin, the Science Director of The National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists, which sponsors the leadership conference, had a big influence on Tyler, but other guests had a more profound effect.
His favorite speaker was Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway and first drug infusion pump, and founded For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), an organization that engages young people in technological innovation and hosts robotics competition.
But Tyler found empathy with fellow teen Jack Andraka, who at 15 created a new diagnostic test for pancreatic and other cancers.
Andraka, now 18 and attending Stanford University, provided a lesson in achievement. While in high school, instead of paying attention in class, Tyler said, Andraka would read magazines for research.
“He did a bunch of research,” Tyler said. “He almost gave up, but he found the one thing he needed to continue his research and kept going, and he succeeded.”
Leader outside of class
Tyler mentors children at Hope Community Church in Cary and has volunteered at youth sports programs and an international orphan hosting program. He’s part of the high school ministry team, has performed community activities, including beautifying landscapes, feeding the poor and caring for kids who are less fortunate.
“He understands the meaning of giving back to those less fortunate and takes responsibility for his actions,” said Lisa Davis, Tyler’s mother.
He holds a part-time job at Chick-fil-A and plays soccer in the Capital Area Soccer League. He recently won the Hamilton Sportsmanship Award, which is awarded to CASL players who display exemplary sportsmanship on and off the field.
Tyler is certified in Microsoft PowerPoint and Word and is working for certification in the rest of the Microsoft Office Suite this school year. He particularly enjoyed his honors Biology class, especially in labs featuring cell membranes, alcohol fermentation and protein synthesis.
Recently, he has taken on a new challenge.
A career counselor at the conference encouraged him to learn computer programming. He’s also taking Andraka’s lead and learning about languages using online tutorials.
About the series
Through Oct. 19, Thumbs Up is highlighting students who excel in STEM activities and education, a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.
Don’t miss STEMology
The News & Observer and Bayer CropScience are teaming up to bring you STEMology, an event designed to bring together STEM leaders and students. It will feature student demonstrations, interactive displays, a panel discussion and food.
When: Oct. 22, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Where: Raleigh Marriot City Center, 500 Fayetteville St. Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17, free for ages 5 and under.