Part 2 of 2
On Saturday Oct. 14, Navy Pier hosted ‘Festival of Flight’ honoring women of color in aviation. Organized and hosted by Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut to travel in space, the event included female aviators from past and present.
Among those were astronaut, Colonel Yvonne Cagle. Cagle, an impressive and statuesque woman, talked to a group of young teachers at the event about how her interest in science began.
“In fifth grade we started learning about the trachea (or “windpipe” that carries air to the lung), and I realized there was a whole universe inside of us that we carry around with us.”
Cagle, a West Point, New York native, said she would sneak into her father’s medical library to look at his books and pictures, trying to understand what the words meant.
“And after he didn’t put me on restriction for doing that, then I knew the stars were out there for me,” she said. “My dad encouraged me. Once I was invited into the library, I never looked up. I just wanted to know more and more how the human body is put together and what it can do. And I’m still learning that.”
Cagle sat down for an interview with the Austin Weekly News after her talk with the teachers.
AWN: Where were you born?
Cagle: “I was born in New York, but raised and educated in California.”
AWN: Your dad was a doctor?
Cagle: “He’s a retired x-ray technician with the Air Force.”
AWN: What is this field, and how exciting it is?
Cagle: “Oh, this is just a wonderful opportunity for blacks to realize that there is access to the world and the professions and applications of math, science, engineering and technology. And we’re already deeply involved in it, especially with our young generation involved in computers and everything. The language of computers is basically the language of math, science and technology. But I think the important thing is to build up the exposure, the confidence, and esteem of our young people to know that they can be a part of this. If words like math, science and engineering are intimidating or overwhelming, then we need to start putting it in language that our young people do understand, and make it fun.”
AWN: Are you looking forward to going into space soon?
Cagle: “Very much so. I don’t know by calendar date, but I do know it will be after they complete the assembly of the International Space Station so that we can focus on getting back to science. It’s right on the heels of us going to the moon, so we got to get our science down.”
AWN: Where do you make your home?
Cagle: “I lived between Houston, where I do my astronaut training, and The Ames Research Center in California, where I do my life science research.”
AWN: What about your family?
Cagle: “My family right now for the most part lives in the Northern Bay Area. I’m in the South Bay now because I also teach at Stanford. My parents and most of my brothers and sisters live in North Berry north of San Francisco.
AWN: What do you teach at Stanford?
Cagle: “I teach bio-tech design and development. So I’m part of the department of cardiovascular medicine, and I consult to the electrical engineering department. Stanford has this really exciting program called bio-X. And (X) just means connecting biology with anything you want to fill in the blank with. So were doing biology and engineering for bio-tech development.”