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Silver Bay Elementary School fifth grader Lucas Lowery has made a name for himself in the U.S. aerospace industry. So much so that he's been invited to share his ideas at a national conference next week.

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Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? No. Not This One

May 2, 2024-- Lucas Lowery wants to go Mars, and he’s closer to actually doing it than almost every kid his age.

In fact, Lucas will be attending the 2024 Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, DC next week. This is not out of the norm. He’s attended the summit since he was 8 years old, first virtually during the height of the pandemic, then in person the last couple of years.

What is out of the norm, however, is that this time Lucas is attending as a speaker.

“This year, he wanted to apply to speak, and I explained to him that this isn't really a kids' thing," said Dr. Robin Jacobs-Lowery, a psychologist at High School East who also happens to be Lucas’s mom. "But I also knew that they were looking for diverse perspectives, and he really wanted to do it. So we said, 'Go for it.'"

Age aside-- Lucas will provide his presentation on May 7, his 11th birthday; the only other youth speaker at the summit is in high school-- he has the experience and knowledge worthy of a keynote speaker. Last summer, for example, at the US Space Rocketry’s Space Camp, Lucas and his team won the Commander’s Cup. That mission-based challenge pits at least a dozen teams comprised of the brightest young minds against one another, and utilizes actual aerospace gear, equipment, and scenarios. Winning the Commander's Cup has been a foundational achievement for a number of current U.S. astronauts.

Lucas's talk will focus on student engagement in the aerospace industry, and how its leaders can improve engagement in order to better develop the next generation of aerospace engineers.

"He’s wanted to be an aerospace engineer since he was 5," said Jacobs-Lowery, "When he was young, people would ask him innocent questions about space, and he'd name some bizarre and obscure moon. He knows almost every astronaut by name."

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It's a safe and accurate assumption that Lucas is advanced academically, particularly in math, which serves as the basis for his passion for aerospace. Staff at Silver Bay have worked hard to cultivate his interests and challenge him along the way.

"He is such a smart kid, and has grown tremendously in his time here," said Silver Bay Principal Mike Devita. "He is amazing with math and science ... I mean amazing, and he's become an academic leader in the building."

Devita said that in years past, after attending the space summit, Lucas would return to Silver Bay and present his findings to his classmates.

"We are extremely proud and excited for him," said Devita. "The sky’s the limit for where he’ll wind up with his love for science and NASA."

Despite being so advanced, Lucas is just like any other kid his age socially, an often hyperactive boy who loves sports-- especially hockey-- and hanging out with his friends, says Jacobs-Lowery. 

In other words, for a kid so obsessed with space and with "sky's the limit" expectations, Lucas is pretty ... down to earth.

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A hockey kid at heart

Dr. Lowery remains a bit befuddled as to where Lucas acquired his space smarts-- "I'm a school psychologist and his dad works at Bank of America," she says with a laugh-- but his parents have clearly had an immensely positive influence on him, and have fully supported his interests and ambitions along the way.

And mom is not the only intellectual and influential female voice in Lucas's life. As his Humans to Mars Summit speaker bio attests, Lucas's mentor is Janet Ivey—Duensing, CEO and creator of Janet’s Planet, the STEM-based television show focused on science, space, history, and health. They were connected when Ivey—Duensing was conducting space camps at Ocean County College's Planetarium, which Lucas began attending at a very young age.

"She advocated for him through the OCC Planetarium, and took him under her wing," said Dr. Lowery. "She saw something special in him."

Most people do. The next group of people about to come in close contact with Lucas Lowery and his brilliant mind and passionate heart are U.S. lawmakers. Following his Tuesday talk, Lucas is remaining in DC to join a delegation that will lobby Congress on May 9 for more funding for the U.S. space program.

"He’s a very cool kid," said Mom. "I’m very, very proud of him."