Meet Sarajane Crawford - an Atlanta-native, yoga practitioner, sorority girl and one of AXO’s resident aerospace engineers. Growing up ‘ITP’ or ‘inside the perimeter’ as one amongst three triplets, Sarajane found an innate passion for math, science and physics right within the heart of Atlanta. Straight out of high school, bright and motivated Sarajane wanted to be what you’d call a ‘basic NASA gal’. On a good day you won’t find SJ being cheekily snobbish about being an ITP. Rather you can catch her frequenting nondescript neighborhoods to scope out yoga studios. An avid yogi, she cultivated her love for new yogic movements from her mum, a yoga instructor and kundalini enthusiast. In fact, SJ too has had her bouts of teaching hot vinayasa at Decatur yoga. Now, besides working on her flow, SJ is a bit of a space geek.
“What else is there to learn I thought? Why not just learn rocket science?” she chuckled over the paper-thin French pizza between us.
I encountered SJ in France during our study abroad program. We bonded over our shared apprehension towards our classes, resilience of being the only two women in the room and love for carefully constructing a life we deemed worthy of living – one filled with balance and vibrancy. Soon we were giggling at space jokes in class, grabbing coffee at the local boulangerie and grinding out problems.
SJ’s interest in aerospace piqued when she pursued higher-level history and math in the IB program. Here she had the opportunity to study the space race during the cold war, it’s ties to Nazi Germany and use a geometric proof to evaluate planetary motion. Soon she was hooked onto doing further readings about orbital trajectory software and considering how to mesh her interests in computer science and aerospace. Her interests now lie at the intersection of the two disciplines with CubeSat – a miniaturized satellite for space research, where she gets to code. Here, she values feeling inspired and contributing to human ingenuity. Despite her self-proclaimed ‘selfish’ pursuit of aerospace, she aims to gain credibility as an educationist. Having experienced schooling with an underfunded math and physics department, SJ feels passionate about education and public policy. In retrospect, she wishes she had delved more into making math and physics accessible to her peers around the world – having them view the subjects the same way that she did.
“Its fun to go to football games and its fun to take derivatives” she gushed.
Her tool of choice then was YouTube and her intent was to create a cross between Minute Physics and Khan Academy.
“I watched Minute Physics, Vsauce, Physics Girl and the Vlog brothers for fun thinking – I could do this. We should do this – I told my best friend.”
Although this idea never came to fruition she still aspires to make engineering more accessible on every platform and bring bite-sized pieces of information about life and work to women in aerospace and computer science.
“As an AE woman, I want to have other aspects to my life and an aerospace intuition. I want to stop walking into a room knowing that I’m not one of the smarter people there. I’ve realized that there is a difference between knowing the right answer and answering with confidence. Women tend to favor a work life balance over success and speaking up – why can’t we have both? Why are we being undermined from day one? The girl complex – its so relevant” she sighs.
SJ's favorite quote now stems from the absence of judgment: Be curious. Not judgemental - Walt Whitman