Girls Chess Club observes STEM careers at Blue Origin

MADISON – A field trip to Blue Origin gave members of Madison’s Girls Chess Club a first-hand look at individuals who have STEM careers.

Located in Cummings Research Park, Blue Origin produces rocket engines that United Launch Alliance or ULA in Decatur uses in construction.

Twenty members of Girls Chess Club toured Blue Origin Park on March 3 and saw work on the manufacturing floor. Larry Powell, ambassador for Club for the Future, led the tour at the engine production facility in Huntsville. Cece Syarif, Girls Chess Coordinator with Madison City Chess League or MCCL, organized the visit.

“After introductions, the girls got down to business and challenged some of the engineers to a game of chess. They were impressed to learn that the employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work,” MCCL President Ranae Bartlett said.

On March 3, schools were cancelled due to high winds and storms, so employees like Larry Powell brought their children to work during the E-Learning Day. “That (policy) was a very family-friendly aspect of working at Blue Origin that impressed the visitors,” Bartlett said.

“We weren’t allowed to take photos during our visit, but our host captured some action shots of the girls and engineers going toe-to-toe at chess,” Bartlett said. “All the individuals of Blue Origin’s staff were friendly and welcoming. I was impressed with their chess skills and how long some were able to hang in there against our competition chess players, some of whom are state and national champions.”

Members of the Girls Chess Club ranged in age from second-graders to seniors in high school. “Registration for this free event for current MCCL members sold out in a few days after it was announced in our weekly newsletter. The girls who attended were from Academy for Science and Foreign Language in Huntsville, plus Madison City Schools from Columbia, Madison and Rainbow elementary schools, Discovery and Liberty middle schools and Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools,” Bartlett said.

However, the longest games were those competitions by middle and high school students Constance Wang, Rachael Ehrman and Shiloh Stringer. “Well-played, everyone!” Bartlett said. “And thank you to Blue Origin for welcoming our chess players to your facility and providing each girl a Blue Origin bag and postcard to space.”

Girls Chess Club is one component of MCCL, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, that promotes chess education for students in grades K-12 in the Madison area.

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