Emily Calandrelli has been reaching for the stars since her high school days in Morgantown and then as a stellar student at West Virginia University, winning top scholarships and national recognition.
And now, the 2010 mechanical aerospace engineering graduate will seek to take others on her journey as host of Xploration Nation: Outerspace, a half-hour educational television program beginning this fall on the Fox network that is part of a four-show series based entirely on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, content
Calandrelli was hand-picked by Steve Rotfeld Productions, largely based on YouTube videos that were produced by WVU to help promote the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources while she was a student.
“The production studio was scouring the web looking for a female with a background in space,” Calandrelli said. “They liked my look and my camera presence and asked me directly if I’d be interested in hosting an educational outer space show and of course I said yes! I also wanted to have some control over the content of the show, so I applied to be a producer as well.”
Producer Rotfield said, “When we look for qualities in a host, we typically look for smart, passionate people with great personalities who are experts in a given field. Emily’s background and credentials were perfectly matched to Xploration Outer Space.”
While at WVU, Calandrelli was named everything from Truman and Goldwater scholar, to Ms. Mountaineer and Order of Augusta to USA Today Academic All-USA First Team. She went on to earn two master’s degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently serves as a visiting scholar in Harvard’s NASA Tournament Lab. The lab leverages crowdsourced contests to create innovative, efficient and optimized solutions for specific, real-world challenges being faced by NASA researchers.
"I selected many of the filming locations based on experiences I had when I was at WVU. We want to highlight NASA's Vomit Comet, the Mars Desert Research Station and Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy lab, each of which I got to experience and see because of WVU programs."
Calandrelli said the show targets viewers in the 13- to 16-year-old age range, and will focus largely on diverse aspects of the space industry.
“Some people think space exploration died with the retirement of the Space Shuttle,” she said. “Our show will prove how wrong this is. The space industry is more exciting today than at any other point in history.”
Thanks to private space companies, Calandrelli said, more groups of people are developing new ways to explore space than ever before.
“Our show will dive into the intriguing world of space tourism, space hotels, one-way trips to Mars, space elevators and asteroid mining. We’ll also be showing viewers what it’s like to train like an astronaut and what it would be like to live on Mars. We’ll talk to experts who will explain the probability of life on other planets and how we are looking for extraterrestrial life today. Our audience will get to see the most advanced space robots that NASA has developed to help explore space and the Martian and Lunar surfaces.
“With each show,” Calandrelli said, “we’ll highlight the science and technology behind a given project so that people can walk away with a better understanding of how the universe works and why projects like these are so important.”
Getting students, especially women, interested in STEM has been a lifelong passion for the Morgantown native.
“Many students, especially minorities and women, write off STEM at a very young age as something that isn’t for them,” she said. “When we’re young, it’s not cool to like math and science. It’s considered nerdy, and not many teenagers want to willingly associate themselves with that stereotype.
“Because of this, our pool of potential innovators, researchers, scientists and engineers is severely limited. If girls think that STEM isn’t for them, we are losing an opportunity to tap into half of the nation’s knowledge base, and that’s a huge problem. I want to show a more relatable side to STEM and help get young students to try it out because it might just be for them.”
Calandrelli will draw on much of her WVU experience for the show’s content.
“I selected many of the filming locations based on experiences I had when I was at WVU. We want to highlight NASA’s Vomit Comet, the Mars Desert Research Station and Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy lab, each of which I got to experience and see because of WVU programs.
“We are also going to shoot a show with WVU’s High Altitude Student Payload Team, which will launch an experiment to the edge of space using a large balloon, similar to a weather balloon. I’m excited to be able to highlight just one of WVU’s great engineering opportunities on a network like Fox.”
Filming for the show, which will premier this fall, will begin in April. To stay updated on where and when the show will air, follow Calandrelli on Twitter at @EmCalSpaceGal or visit her blog online at EmilyCalandrelli.com.
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