“I want to help the Native community get better representation and show that we can help Native citizens get into aerospace engineering, mathematics, or [other STEM career fields]. And the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations are trying to do the same thing on their reservations. They have amazing education networks, so when I realized what they were doing, I wanted to help them be successful [in their efforts] so that they could inspire other tribes to do the same thing.

“When I was talking with the Principal Chiefs of the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations, they said, ‘We need to start making decisions for our people seven generations from now.’ So, they started looking at emerging technologies, and aviation [with a focus on] advanced air mobility was one of those areas. They said, ‘We want to make sure our youth are enabled and equipped to start fielding some of these areas,’ and that’s how I want to help inspire people too. 

“Everyone needs an anchor from their community to motivate and inspire them to move forward. I want to be a motivational anchor for the next generation of minorities. You look at minorities, and we often don’t have as many anchors from our past to make us believe [our big dreams are possible]. Providing that legacy now and saying, ‘Hey, I can be an emotional anchor to somebody in my community or with my background [in] two, three, four generations from now,’ and building something outside of myself – that’s what motivates me. I think that’s how we inspire, by leaving those anchors in our timeline.” 

— David Zahn, NASA Research Pilot, Ames Research Center

Image Credit: NASA / Dominic Hart
Interviewer: NASA / Tahira Allen