Samantha Dolski, Newsome High School Class of 2021 graduate and current student at the University of Texas, joined the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab (TREL) last semester as the co-lead of the Fluids Component Test Team. Dolski and the other 200 young engineers are building a 30-foot rocket named Halcyon which they plan to launch into space in September 2023 and will make them the first college team to launch a liquid-propelled rocket into space.
Dolski joined as TREL began its transition from the design phase to the test phase for the rocket, which they hope to launch above the 100-kilometer line that defines the beginning of space. They have been in contact with industry leaders like Blue Origin and Firefly, which have offered advice on their project.
“What is more integral to our lab is the goal of building people who build rockets [by] learning and experiencing what it means to be an engineer,” explained Dolski. “It’s tackling a problem that is so large, and I think everyone is there for the experience of learning something new and being a part of a project.”
Since she was little, the freshman engineer has enjoyed watching space shows such as How the Universe Works and knew she wanted to be a part of the field. Dolski took physics and other STEM classes at Newsome to learn more about aerospace engineering and prepare for the program in college.
Dolski said her physics teacher, Bibiane Darbouze, encouraged her to take up her own independent study and pushed her to hone her skills in both math and science to prepare. Scott Coonfare, Dolski’s chemistry and STEM club teacher, was able to provide her with resources and mentorship through his connection with NASA.
“Even though I had no clue what I was doing,” Dolski said, “I was at this high school level trying to work on Ph.D. work.”
Through the guidance of her teachers in her early steps into the field and the dedication she had to her work, Dolski was able to join the University of Texas’ engineering team as a leader while a freshman.
Dolski mentioned that, although she is a female entering into a field traditionally dominated by men, the University of Texas has made an effort to include both males and females of all races and promoted diversity in its program. Dolski has found a community of other female engineers that has made her feel at home and hopes to one day provide that same sense of community to rising female engineers.