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12-Year-Old Child Prodigy Off to College, Aspires to Become NASA Engineer

Liz L




How old were you when you first began dreaming about a career at NASA? Depending on when you were born, most people either followed the original Space Race to the Moon or the rise of Elon Musk and Space-X. As more and more focus gets put on action outside our atmosphere, children like Alena Wicker are priming themselves to become the world-changers of tomorrow. Wicker is a 12-year-old child from Arizona who had recently completed high-school through a homeschooling program. Known as a child-prodigy around her community, Alena had planned for years to major in both Chemistry and Astronomical and Planetary Sciences, though she was more than happy to start with a box of LEGO.

Alena Wicker: Space Enthusiast

At just 12-year-old, Alena had shown herself to be markedly different from the other kids her age. To be fair, her journey towards becoming a childhood prodigy began when she was just four-years-old. According to Alena and her parents, she declared that she was going to work or NASA. Alena’s mother Daphne McQuarter says that she would point up and at the stars as an infant claiming, “She just had a gift for numbers and Lego and science — so I started nurturing that gift.”

Dreaming of Outer Space

Always one to exceed the expectations of those around her, Alena is looking to double-major during her time at Arizona State University. At the time of this writing, Alena’s goal is to be graduated from college by the age of 16 before heading off to work at NASA. Alena and her mother have spoken extensively about her dreams and goals for working with the federal agency, carefully underscoring Alena’s affinity for space mobiles and the Mars Rover. Alena said of her future career path, “I’ll be driving one of those future space mobiles by the time I graduate.”

According to Alena, she had been dreaming of becoming an engineer from a young age. Wicker had fallen in love with her Lego collection at a young age, and it didn’t take long for Alena’s family to realize her affinity for building. Alena said, “I liked dreaming of being an engineer because (throughout my life) I liked building.”

From Arizona to NASA

While Alena journeys through her education path toward a career at NASA, the young student is sharing her story online to inspire and educate those following along. Alena shares frequent updates regarding her journey through her website as well as a potential podcast in the figure. She describes herself as “just a girl who loves STEM” and “is obsessed with” LEGO and STEM. While Alena is steadfast and focused on her career, she’s still a child at heart — and that’s why Alena can’t go long without talking about her love of pizza, big bows, hoodies, and Lego construction.

Even though Alena has a long way to go before she graduates and moves onto the next step in her journey, she wants everyone to know that the future is there for the taking. Alena said, “Go for it, dream, and then accomplish it!”



Baby Stegosaur Footprint Found In China

Danielle S



Somewhere around a centennial of millions of years before anyone in the human race was born, a big baby stomped all over the place with full weight on its hind feet. This particular infant was a stegosaur that decided to rear up on its hind legs for a moment. Doing so, the infant ended up leaving a print in the mud it was standing in that ended up lasting for almost perpetuity as the impression became fossilized into rock. Today, the same footprint, about the size of a cat’s paw, was located in Xinjiang in the northwestern part of China. Paleontologists working in the area were able to excavate a remarkable impression left by the creature which in all likelihood was only about the size of someone’s palm at the time.

The location was not barren or sparse in ancient types. Evidenced by multiple other stegosaur footprints from larger creatures, the place where the baby footprints were located was a frequent traffic area for the creatures. Generally herbivores, stegosaurs are easy to tell apart from other similar dinosaurs by the fact that they had a unique three-toe foot. That left a related unique footprint which identified where they frequented as the prints fossilized. The baby stegosaur was an extremely small replication of the much larger adults that frequented area, offshoots of which were found in broken fossil sets in the same area.

The existing of small baby versions of the stegosaur has been debated repeatedly in prior finds. One set of tracks were located in Morrison, CO. However, paleontologists were split on that evidence with some confirming the find was indeed a fossilized track set, and other similar scientist arguing they are nothing but captured mud that was trapped in sandstone during compression over the millennia.

For researchers in China, the Xinjiang find raised additional questions as to how the baby creature traveled. Unlike its larger relatives, this particular infant is assumed to have traveled on its hind legs primarily. Researchers are using the find as additional evidence to conclude that the stegosaur didn’t really transition to walking on four legs until it was closer to full size, needing four legs to carry its full weight in adulthood. In short, the infants and young versions were generally standing and moving upright, like a bipedal human with backward knee joints. The conclusion is based on how the tracks were created with very short impressions versus dragging marks that typically happen as the creature moves on four legs and has a much lower stride to the ground.

The find is one like to keep generating more journal articles debating the possibilities, but one thing is definitely true: some small creature way back when managed to leave its mark that has lasted well over 100 million years, which is a pretty good track record for a calling card.

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Beekeepers and Pittsburgh Airport Partner to Save Bees

Danielle S



As much as bees are important to agriculture, people panic whenever they come across one, much more a colony of bees. Just thinking that you can be at an airport and just right behind you, there are millions of bees that may freak some people out.

However, when it’s taken into context, and you realize the massive benefits of them being there and learn that they will not venture away from their hives to harm anyone, you’ll breathe more easily.

What is fuzzy, black and yellow, buzzes, creates honey, and resides around an airfield? Not everyone will be fooled by the last section; it’s bees.

To help restore colony volumes in the state, bees are now being accepted into the Pittsburgh International Airport’s disheveled areas. This comes after Ben Shertzer, the airport’s wildlife administrator, discovered many colonies attached to the bottom of a plane’s wings.

Bees, as the largest and most important pollinators, control the fate of billions of dollars in cultivation and the life of almost all the fruit and nut crops.

Organic farmers transfer their hives around the world, pollinating grasslands and orchards, and bees are thought to be responsible for 35 percent of agricultural products in the United States.

Shertzer had to employ a master beekeeper, Steve Repasky, to extract the hives from the Delta plane’s wings, but the experience piqued his curiosity in the buzzing insects. Because of his curiosity, he learned more about the plight of bees around the world and how important they are to the environment.

The two men devised a scheme to set up an apiary in the forests and uncut grass fields surrounding the airport’s perimeter. Even so, it took many years for an executive sensitive to the apids’ situation to get things going.

More than four million bees swarm around the airport’s properties now, spread over eight thousand acres and 110 colonies, and they’re assisting the workers in monitoring air pollution generated on the premises.

Swarming behavior, in which a hive splits in the spring and the bees flee a mile or more in search of a new home, seemed to be an issue at one point when Repasky was extracting 15 hives per year from hangar vehicles and planes.

Pittsburgh International Airport’s Steve Repasky

However, “swarm traps” placed along the tarmac’s edges have reduced this amount to three.

Many airports across the country and around the world, which include Seattle-Tacoma, Austin-Bergstrom, and Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting to keep bees, according to Air & Space Magazine.

It’s a strange development that might help overcome years of depletion in bee populations, which are starting to recover thanks to fertilizer reductions and individuals like Shertzer’s initiatives.

In Germany, for instance, honey is harvested (and handed away for free at some airports) and tested for toxic substances and hydrocarbons to ensure that air pollution standards are met.

The honey, it turns out, is comparable to honey produced in areas without heavy industry, which is a fascinating discovery.

The project has been embraced and is being considered by many other airports and countries across the world.

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Atlanta Braves Call Up Sean Kazmar Jr For MLB Action After 13 Years Away

Amanda J



Baseball fans understand that when draft and sign a prospect, there is no guarantee that you will see them in the Big Leagues anytime soon. There are exceptions, of course, with notable names like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols both making it the Show within a couple of years. For an infielder on the Atlanta Braves Minor League affiliate team, the journey to the top took quite a bit longer but it might have been all the more satisfying as a result.

Sean Kazmar was a fifth-round draft pick in 2004 when he was selected by the San Diego Padres. The young infielder would make his way to the Majors for a smattering of at-bats, appearing in just 19 games that season Kazmar wouldn’t make much of an impression and this would mark the beginning of a career in the Minor Leagues, though not exactly by choice.

Minor League baseball players are often asked to adhere to grueling schedules while being paid at significantly reduced rates. The experience at the A, AA, and AAA level is more reminiscent of collegiate ball, with players bussing, sharing rooms, and frequently pooling money together. To say that lower A ball isn’t glamorous would be to put it lightly, but that would also be a disservice to the hard work that Sean Kazmar Jr did while facing adversity.

After making his debut in 2008, Kazmar would get sent down to the Minor Leagues for over a decade, quietly plying away at his trade to make the improvements necessary to get called back up to the show. With how rare first chances are in the MLB, Kazmar probably didn’t dare to hope. Yet, in 2021 Kazmar would be called up by the Atlanta Braves as a pinch-hitter against the Chicago Cubs. Kazmar would ground into a double play, not an ideal scenario for a first at-bat back to the game, but he was still glowing after the fact.

Kazmar said of getting back in the game after more than 13 years away, “What a good feeling — getting that opportunity early in the game was awesome.” Kazmar would go on to describe how important it felt to wear the Braves uniform while playing at such a historic ballpark as Wrigley Field. Kazmar finishes, “It was amazing.”

Kazmar’s gap between major league appearances was not just hard for him, it was historic for the league. Before Kazmar, the last huge gap between appearances was by a right-handed pitcher named Ralph Winegarner, playing in 1936 before re-appearing in 1949 for the St. Louis Browns.

Manager Brian Snitker described his call to Kazmar as a ‘highlight’ of his career, giving an opportunity to someone who had worked hard and done things right. Snitker said, “it’s a second debut for him.” That wasn’t the only kind statement that Snitker had to share about the infielder currently filling in for Ozzie Albies. Kazmar also described Kazmar as their team MVP in Spring Training.

According to Kazmar, getting called up couldn’t have happened at a better time. Kazmar had been sitting at home on his couch when he got the call. Kazmar and his wife would go on to drop everything so that she could make it to Chicago on a redeye flight to see her husband play. Kazmar’s parents also came to the game.

Cubs manager David Ross said of Kazmar’s story, “That’s the stuff you love about baseball.”

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Teen Meets Former Manager Who Helped Deliver Him In Starbucks Restroom

Sarrah M



Just over eighteen years after his mother had to deliver him early in a Starbucks restroom in a residential area of Chicago, Jonathan Celner was amazed to open his seldom-used Facebook account to come upon a note from the gentleman who helped with his delivery.

Celner’s mom had to run into the Starbucks in Wilmette, Illinois, while heading home. Griffin Baron, who was 21-years-old worked there as a shift supervisor. Before the pregnant woman could complete her transaction and leave, she went into labor.

Baron told reporters that it was an occasion he’ll never forget and that he’s been trying to find out what happened to the baby since then. However, in the spring of this year, he came across a GoFundMe page for Celnet and his brother. Their father recently passed, and their mom, Lisabeth Rohlck, died several years before.

Baron said that he made a donation and looked up Celner on Facebook. He double-checked that the young man’s info was correct before sending him a letter, and then he got “goosebumps all over.”

Baron said in the letter, “I worked as a barista the day you were born, and I’ve always been curious about what happened to you after you.”

They spoke several minutes before agreeing to meet exactly where things had unfolded nearly twenty years before Starbucks. The store even has memorabilia: a sticker of a stork holding a baby, which pays homage to Celner’s arrival on Earth.

Baron says he was eating in the back room of his workplace in 2002 when he heard shouting from the lady’s restroom.

A female patron, Tricia Monico, went in to search and found Rohlck giving birth, according to local news then.

Celner was apparently on his way when Baron arrived with hot towels. The female customer was holding the patient’s hand.

Baron was temporarily paralyzed before quickly handing over the towels and helping to motivate the mother. Then shortly after, a baby was born.

According to Baron, it was a wild few minutes, but first responders arrived and cut the umbilical cord. The relieved mother and newborn were transported to the hospital for a checkup, followed by a press conference the next day.

The store was a total mess, and an official cleaning crew was brought in to restore normalcy.

Customers continued to come in, he chuckled, saying, “Oh my goodness, that was insane. Is it possible to get a large Frappuccino?’ ‘No!’ I exclaimed. Get out of here! You can’t come in here because we’re closed!'”

Celner says he was brought up learning about his tumultuous start in life, but his mother died while he was still young and didn’t provide much detail. Meeting Baron provided him with the opportunity to “fill in the holes” in the plot.

Celner’s birth, according to Baron, who now has two young children, was one of the most unforgettable occurrences of his life.

Baron says he thought about Celner frequently, adding that after his own son was delivered, it sparked memories of his initial experience with childbirth in that Starbucks restroom. “It’s insane. I mean, I’d wanted to learn a lot more regarding this child for such a long time, and then I eventually got to greet him, and it was just this incredible experience… I’m always thinking about him.”

Celner’s favorite drink at the coffee shop is either a hot chocolate or a cold brew, despite his origin story.

Celner may have been born at a Starbucks, but he definitely has no passion for coffee. Then again, who would, if their memory from childhood is connected with delivery at a coffee store?

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Following Advice From Mark Cuban, Teen Collects Scores of Coats For Charity

Sarrah M



Many people say they want to do things for others but fail to make it happen. This once homeless teenager has proven that anything the mind conceives is attainable.

Ashis Dhakal, 18, realized his desire to contribute to society after transferring from a refugee center in Nepal to reside in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Though he was ridiculed for his Hinduism, he informed TODAY’s Hoda Kotb that it was his religion that motivated him to establish Ashis Collects Clothes, an organization that arranges clothing initiatives and contributions for families who need it most.

“They labeled me a terrorist as well as things like that when I was in the classroom,” Dhakal said. “I pursue Hinduism, and generosity is very essential in Hinduism, since we’re educated to share, and even if we haven’t much, we try to offer as much of it as we can.”

He encountered a homeless person when employed at a nearby KFC several years ago. Dhakal and the stranger struck up a conversation while clearing tables, and the man related his story of how he happened to be destitute.

“I got the inspiration because one of the essentials he wanted was clothing,” Dhakal said.

In 2019, Ashis Collects Clothes held its first clothing drive. Dhakal gathered all of the socks, caps, jackets, coats, and boots he could find.

“I was able to put so many communities together and transform so many lives with that project,” Dhakal said. “My greatest ‘why’ in life is that I was in their position once as a young child growing up in poverty. I own a home. I now have access to a screen.

I’m in possession of a telephone. But consider this: Those children are also in pain. What I can do is help people improve themselves so that they can in turn assist their communities.”

Dhakal credits his faith and experience as a refugee for motivating him to help those in need.

Ashis Collects Clothes is just the beginning phase for Dhakal as he hopes to one day own a multimillion-dollar company that focuses on donating its profits to benefit others.

Hoda introduced Dhakal to billionaire businessman and Philanthropist Mark Cuban, who’s Dhakal’s idol, to assist him with achieving his dream.

“Mark Cuban is an excellent philanthropist and entrepreneur,” Dhakal said. “He has done incredible things for his people. Someday, I hope to be on his stage.”

Dhakal was given a clear target by Cuban, who said he understands what it’s like to struggle and wants to give back by collecting close to six hundred jackets and coats to donate to individuals who need them.

Though Dhakal was having trouble collecting coats, he took Cuban’s advice and connected with Amy Dott Harmer, who works at a refugee assistance facility. This local organization links refugees in the region. Dhakal was inundated with coats in a matter of days.

Dhakal compiled thousands of coats in four days, far exceeding his initial target.

“I never imagined collecting 3,000 coats,” Dhakal said, “but Utah made it feasible, and the community I interacted with made it possible.”

Cuban told Dhakal he’s setting an example, adding that ” it’s not about relations.” “It doesn’t matter who you meet. Make an effort. It all boils down to how much work you’re willing to put in to complete a task.”

Comcast, the mother company of NBC, revealed that it would match the number of coats raised to increase the donation’s reach.

Dhakal says he is grateful and delighted to be in a place where he can put his group together and make a difference.

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