• Brooke Owens Fellow, Class of 2018
  • Florida Polytechnic University, Mechanical Engineering, '19
  • Host Institution: Generation Orbit
  • Mentor: Nick Skytland

Growing up, Payton Barnwell loved toy cars, build kits, and watching shuttle launches with her dad from the front yard; her parents weren’t too surprised to find out that she would choose to become an engineer. In 2019, she will be the first in her family to graduate college, and will walk across the stage to receive her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Florida Polytechnic University.

During her freshman year, she founded Florida Poly’s first space interest club, ASTRO, and worked on a NASA Florida Space Research Program grant relating to her idea on ways to investigate naturally occurring radiation resistance in microorganisms. She is currently a member of the Society of Women Engineers, AIAA, American Institute of Spaceflight and Gravitational Research, and is founder and director of the educational exploration program, Splash at Poly. Last Summer, Payton became the first NASA intern from Florida Poly when she accepted her position with the space plant biology team at NASA Kennedy Space Center, the stellar team that allowed her to contribute towards finding the most efficient LED light “recipe” for greens aboard the International Space Station. Throughout this Fall semester, she has been working with Made In Space, Inc. to bring stellar entrepreneurship skills to her campus by organizing the ‘Deep Space Game Changer’ challenge. Coming from a STEM school that is currently 14% female, Payton cannot wait to have ~35 new “Brookies” STEM sisters. 

Her past experiences within the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, and education have helped Payton to realize that her true passion lies within the space industry – a place where her love for multidisciplinary STEM work and outreach is welcomed, and where the opportunities to start something new (and inspire others along the way) are limitless. Upon graduation, Payton hopes to continue working to make space a sustainable environment for humans to live, learn, and explore in, while continuing to show that *everyone* has a place in space!

As a 2018 Brookie, Payton will be working at Generation Orbit in Atlanta, GA.