Shawna Pandya 07/17 – Flying high @ SU

July 28, 2009

Shawna Pandya

GSP-09: Student’s Perspective, by Shawna Pandya
(SU’s 2009 Graduate Studies Program)

Singularity University.

It started with passionate people and a daring idea. 10^9+.

SU co-founder & Vice-Chancellor Peter Diamandis has a brain-wave…

peter thinking singularity

Then came the structure – Singularity University. They built it, and we came. 40 of the world’s emerging leaders, students and innovators from 14 countries and countless disciplines…given 9 weeks to create and perpetuate ideas to positively impact 1 billion people. Nothing intimidating about that, right?

Fast forward to the end of week three, 1/3 of the way through the adventure that is SU; the amount of things we have seen and done in this short time is tremendous. We have interacted with and been inspired by astronauts, Nobel laureates and most importantly, each other. Together, we have engaged in late-night debates about the world’s major issues, brainstormed ideas for the next great social enterprise, built elaborate Rube-Goldberg machines in the space of hours, worked as teams to endure Survivor-style challenges and even moved the atoms themselves (and they spell SU) on a site visit to IBM Almaden.

SU09 084

Yet even these particular experiences fall flat (emphasis on fall) compared to today’s adventure. I have always said that if you are going to age, you may as well do it in style. And when you happen to be hitting a major milestone (a quarter of a century in this case) – well, it doesn’t make sense to hold back. Some people throw lavish parties. Others head off to five-star resorts in exotic locales.

On my 25th birthday, I’m flying.

Well, you must be thinking, what’s so exciting about that? People have flying for ages. Yes…but they’ve been doing it in planes. I’m talking about pushing off from the ground and floating, literally floating, in mid-air.

After all, that’s the beauty of going 0G.

Of course, when SU is involved, you know there has to be a twist, a little something extra. In this case, we’ve decided to take the whole 0G concept one step further and host the first-ever cocktail party in weightlessness. So today we’ve shed the usual flight suits in favor of black ties and evening dresses (with shorts to avoid scandal, of course) – and brought along a few party favors to celebrate the occasion.

So 1 Martian, 2 Lunar and 10 0G parabolas later, how do I describe the indescribable – dancing with astronauts in 3-dimensions, flipping in weightlessness, chasing floating M & M’s and water droplets …and having an all-star rendition of “Happy Birthday” sang to me aboard the 0G flight by space royalty, SU friends and ISU family? I can’t…but I can show you. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then surely a video must be exponentially better?

I’ll let you be the judge.

Of course… sometimes you just need to capture the moment… ;-)

Post-flight euphoria: SU students Shawna Pandya (left) & Bentley Turner (right), with astronaut Dan Barry at center:


…SP over & out.