When it comes to pursuing a dream career, sometimes all it takes is the right support and exposure to turn aspirations into reality. Alora Mazarakis, a flight communications and tracking engineer on the Artemis program at NASA and former Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering student, is a shining example of how combining the right education with life experiences can propel a person towards making their dreams come true.
Alora's journey began early on. Growing up she was introduced to aerospace-related toys. Instead of playing with Barbie, she played with Barbie’s Dream Plane. This interest in flight and space was a bond she shared with her father, who is a pilot. They soon discovered that while Alora’s father wanted to fly, she wanted to launch. When her family took a vacation to Florida, Alora witnessed her first space shuttle launch—and she was hooked.
In high school, Alora knew she wanted to work for NASA, but was unsure how to achieve that goal. She enrolled in PLTW’s Fundamentals of Engineering course at Martha Layne Collins High School, which quickly became one of her favorites. Through the hands-on activities in this course, she learned how engineers design and problem solve, how to use 3D modeling software, and how the various engineering disciplines shape the world.
Alora also participated in a program called GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math, and Science) during high school, which incorporated PLTW classes to support and mentor female students.
When Alora began college, she initially chose to pursue bioengineering. She did not consider a career as a NASA engineer realistic; she saw it as an unattainable dream, like becoming a famous singer or actor. However, during college, she joined River City Rocketry, a team that participated in the NASA Student Launch program. This helped her see that her dream could indeed become a reality. Collaborating on the creation and construction of rockets for this NASA-sponsored contest, she found herself reflecting on and applying her engineering insights gained from her high school PLTW class. This hands-on immersion into rocketry, coupled with the invaluable opportunity to collaborate alongside NASA engineers, deepened her passion for the field.
After years of pursuing her dreams, Alora is now contributing to deep space exploration through her role with the Artemis missions at NASA. As a flight communications and tracking engineer, Alora is making contributions to space exploration by ensuring communication goes smoothly with the rocket during launch and while it is in space. Alora's work involves radio frequency engineering and enables the transmission of data and telemetry between the rocket and the Launch Control Center.
Nurtured by aerospace wonder since her earliest days and propelled by PLTW's Engineering program, as well as NASA’s Student Launch program, Alora’s story illustrates how passion, education, and experience can pave the pathway to achieving one's dreams. From gazing at launches with awe to orchestrating communications as a flight communications and tracking engineer, her trajectory is a shining example that the universe rewards those who dare to dream.